- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 25, 2006

Q:I get invited to many important functions in town as part of my job. In the process, I

tend to meet a lot of famous people in what are sometimes intimate surroundings. How can I tell my relatives that I can’t take them along as my guests? Many of my family members are awestruck by celebrities, and frankly, it’s embarrassing to hear them oohing and ahhing all of the time. I’m also getting tired of hearing all of their gossipy questions.

A: We live in a star-crazed and celebrity-driven culture in which it is difficult to escape the constant barrage of “news” about political, sports and entertainment personalities: what they eat, what they wear, whom they are romancing, etc., etc., ad nauseam. Because your relatives may be more eager than most for what they perceive to be privileged access to this scene, you are going to have to make it very clear that having them accompany you to such VIP events is out of the question.

Ask them to understand that there is no way you can mix business with your personal life and that their presence might hinder you on the job. If this doesn’t sink in and they persist, all you have to do is inform them that their accompanying you would not be permitted by the higher-ups in your company, and/or that the stars’ representatives have stipulated that attendance be carefully controlled. That way, the matter is out of your hands. End of story.

Dealing with requests for scandalous tales and other “inside information” about major personalities is another matter. Explain that discretion is an important component in what you do and you are honor-bound not to gossip or tell tales that could have severe repercussions if repeated in the press.

Q: I am way overextended in my volunteer obligations and want to bail out. How can I go about this, and how do I avoid being in this situation in the future?

A: You didn’t say if you want to bail out of all of your obligations or merely some of them. If it is the former, indicate to the organizations involved that the circumstances of your life (personal, family, work, etc.) are such that you have to withdraw — at least for the time being. Most people have been in similar straits at some time or another, and they will understand your predicament.

Sometimes it is better to put your sentiments in a formal letter to the person in charge. This makes it more of a fait accompli and might discourage a lot of unwanted discussion about the matter.

If you want to pull back from select commitments rather than all of them, all you have to do is explain (again, a letter is the best way) that you have to cut back on certain activities in order to concentrate better on others to which you can make a real difference with more energy and time.

Avoiding similar situations in the future is simple enough. Just say “no” if you don’t have the time or inclination to get involved. You can always say you might change your mind later if your schedule permits.

Address your questions on etiquette and protocol to Kevin Chaffee, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington DC 20002 or send e-mail to [email protected] washingtontimes.com.

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