Are You Always an Expert?

are you always an expertAre you always an expert, even when you’re “off duty”? Do you have trouble balancing your professional and personal roles?

I saw a magazine advice column recently where a professional was wondering how to respond to those who asked for her advice when she wasn’t in her office.

She’s a well-known medical professional in her community, and when she’s out walking, at a store, or even out for dinner, she’s sometimes asked about how to deal with a problem in the other person’s life.

And the way she wrote the question suggested she did not welcome such intrusions at those times.

What should her response be, she wondered?

The column advisor gave several answers – ask them to call your office, make an appointment to discuss it, check with someone else – all good ideas, but all aimed at deflecting the question to another time. And perhaps not being given with good grace.

The Grammar GoddessI also am fairly well known in my small village; heck, I have my car deliberately parked behind my house in such a way that my magnetic signs show.

I create and publish our monthly village newsletter. I put my email and cell number in it.

I’m the BOD VP.

I’m out every day walking my dogs, often with friends. I am clearly visible.

It’s not like I am hiding anything that I do professionally, right?  

Now, I don’t get swarmed (I’m not a rock star), but sometimes someone will approach me with a question on American grammar or on something relating to the village. It makes sense to me, because just seeing me probably brings up a question they’ve been thinking about but hadn’t gotten around to asking.

Oh, there she is!

Hey, Susan! Got a minute?

Yes. I can also imagine that there are times when it would feel terribly intrusive – say, at dinner in a restaurant with others. That’s clearly private time, and unless it’s an emergency, I might look at the questioner through slitted eyes … OK, no, I probably wouldn’t.

But I don’t know that I’d appreciate it, either.

Sad to say, there were no responses given in that column suggesting stretching a little to respond in a friendly manner to be seen as someone we’d want to consult later for real. If we give that person a reason to like us because we’re friendly, we stand a good chance of them hiring us when they really need us. Why? Because of how they felt during our interaction.

While a brush-off might feel good to the professional – Hey! She’s out of line asking me that here! – even if it’s the wrong time and place, that person may slink away, never wanting to be near the professional again. 

Poet Maya Angelou expressed it best, with these famous last words: “They’ll never forget how you made them feel.”

All in all, I’d rather folks felt comfortable talking with me than not. If no one asks me anything or shares something with me, especially here in the village, I might never know that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. And as a BOD member, I like to know what’s going on in our 27 acres, in our different tiny neighborhoods, so that I can help. I’m grateful that others help me and all of us that way!

Are you ever approached in this manner? What are your thoughts here?