I went to a little BBQ restaurant for dinner. They have excellent ribs and the baked beans weren’t too bad either.
This time they had a new menu item on the menu called “potato salad” and I imagined that could taste pretty good. So I added that. I confidently ordered the larger of two container sizes too.
I had polished off the ribs and beans. Now it was time to try the much anticipated new item.
Well, to my palate it was awful. I took a bite and decided I would not take another. It was cheesy, that’s not what I had in mind when I ordered “potato salad…”
So I strode up to the cashier to pay for the meal. Then, while my card was being swiped, the cook turned and asked, “so how did you like that potato salad?”
What do you say to the smiling creator of something you just got done categorizing as a potential vomit inducer?
Put on the spot, I strung together a series of words, “it definitely had its own unique taste,” and seemed to avoid offending him with my brutal honesty.
He went on to proudly described his creation like a dad speaking of a beloved child.
Why not just tell him it was awful?
I mean, when someone asks for feedback they are opening themselves up to a negative opinion, right?
Was it that I sensed he was looking for my approval and I didn’t want to disappoint him?
Would actual honesty, like “awful” or “vomit inducing,” come off too strong in that situation?
I did not have time to think out a response. So I defaulted to saying something that sounded nice, that kept him smiling and would allow me to leave in peace.
I carried the potato salad with me until I was a safe distance down the sidewalk. I disposed of the offending substance in a garbage can. Then looking back to make sure nobody saw me do it.
My take away…
Flame wars may erupt amid internet anonymity. People might even be brutally honest when angry, annoyed or upset enough. But politeness reigns supreme otherwise.
Be careful not to take seemingly positive feedback as the whole story. Sometimes nobody wants to be the first to break it to the emperor that he ain’t wearing any clothes.
It is nice to dwell on the good. I think it is considerate to not want to hurt feelings. Yet, sometimes it is the best friend who tells you unapologetically that the potato salad is plain bad.
Or it could just be that I don’t know potato salad…