Politicians behaving badly – we try to help

    As a public service, we’re offering the first in an occasional series of lessons on Image Management for elected officials.

    Today’s subject: What to do if you’re out in public and someone heckles you.

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was walking the Seaside Heights boardwalk Thursday with his family, eating an ice cream cone when a guy razzed him about his approach to public school employees.

    First, kudos to the guv for being on the boardwalk like a regular guy and not on a yacht or in some posh, gated resort. But back to today’s lesson – what to do if you’re heckled.

    The incorrect response is illustrated above by Gov Christie.

    The correct response: You briefly and cordially engage the misguided constituent and tell him you’re sorry they disagree, but hope they can always be respectful toward one another. You do this with a smile and Ronald Reagan-like nod of the head, finishing with a friendly wave.

    This approach leaves anyone watching (or filming) thinking that heckler, not you is a jerk. The onlooker thinks, “Geez, doesn’t the governor have the right to eat that vanilla ice cream in peace, whether he needs it or not?”

    (Advanced students may try the Expert Version of this response, in which you take the heckler’s hand, look him in the eye and give a fleeting wink, letting him and only him know that in the guise of being gracious, you’re actually putting him down).

    After a little practice and role-play with a particularly irritating aide, we’re sure the governor will be up to snuff in no time. We wish him well in his next encounter.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.