I was somewhat appalled and amused at those old shows on TV where it seemed everyone knew exactly what everyone else was ‘worth.’ Since many of those movies were made in Europe it was always in pounds, not dollars.
As a young Canadian I realized North Americans don’t go around talking about their yearly income to all and sundry. Even those of us who have done the math tend to talk in terms of ‘net worth,’ not necessarily how many dollars are in the bank or stuffed inside the mattress. I kept watching those old black and white productions and wondering how the young ladies knew their prospective suitors’ yearly income…not to mention, why? Even today a woman wants to know if her future husband will be able to support the family or if she’ll have to work as well. But this went much further than data you might acquire through legitimate personal contact. This was the stuff of gossips.
Aye, there’s the rub. It’s still very much the stuff of gossips. And the world still has people who love to listen to and pass on gossip. Not just any gossip, but juicy gossip made of tawdry rumors, second hand hearsay and outright lies. (If Dr. Phil was on death’s door I doubt he’d let the tabloids break the news to the world.) An additional aspect of juiciness is the degree to which (mis)information can harm a reputation, hurt innocent bystanders such as children and other family members or just wound the spirit of the gossip’s subject, AKA, the victim/villain.
On a personal level most of us face relatively harmless gossipers. However it’s best to head off potential trouble before it can develop. Some people will lie about you no matter what you do but those who know the real you will be able to give you the benefit of the doubt if you have behaved otherwise.
Remember, just because they ask doesn’t mean they have a right to know. Here are a few seemingly innocent questions that are best deflected:
1. “What time do you get off work?” If you know the individual this could be a legitimate question. Otherwise it’s best to assume the person asking has the intention of lying in wait for you. It’s okay to shrug and answer with something vague like, ‘I might have to fill in for someone,’ or ‘I’m not allowed to divulge that information.’ You haven’t lied and you may have spared yourself a world of hurt. This is particularly true for young women. Questions along the same line include; “Are you going home now?” and the especially dangerous, “Where do you live?”
2. “How much do you make an hour?” This is rarely anyone else’s business but your own. A few people may ask because they’re considering your field of work but if that’s the case they can find the information on the Internet. Responses you can offer include, ‘It varies,’ ‘The company considers wages confidential,’ or (my favorite) ‘That’s really none of your business.’ These should also be standard responses to Internet phishing scams. If someone doesn’t know you well they have no reason to know all of yours.
3. Any intimate or personal question that the person has no right to ask. Many a celebrity starlet has been thrown into the volcanic flames of criticism and mockery for revealing she was still a virgin. The Internet can bring out the extremely vicious and unprincipled who thrive on sniping against anyone who wishes to project any kind of morality. Some of this unwarranted crap even made its way to my email junk filter. Unacceptable questions of this type are best ignored or treated as an opportunity to change the subject.
On the other side of the argument is learning how to answer painful questions that might come up in an interview. Remember that anger will tend to cause you to say things that will not be in you favor. One television interview focused on the celebrity’s recent legal troubles instead of the products she wanted to promote. There were several points at which she could have segued into product promotion, any of which would have required some self-abasement and a healthy dose of humor. Did she really think the interviewer wanted to focus on her new lines of product when she’d recently been in jail? She could have anticipated the entire discussion and planned her responses accordingly instead of just reacting negatively.
Among the most embarrassing questions I’ve been asked were the ones posed by a local interviewer. I honestly had not considered the fact that the title, Been Blued, might be suggestive of ribald content. Risqué, perhaps… That interviewer seemed to enjoy my spirited defense that my aliens were not frat boys out on a kegger even if they were after the women.
(If you’re interested in Jim Cherry’s summer review of Been Blued, here’s the link: #mce_temp_url#)
By keeping my sense of humor about the whole thing I received a wonderful write up in the local paper, a second interview when the sequel came out and another fan for my series who’s now eagerly waiting for my next book signing.
So, what do you think? Feel to answer…or not.