Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tell your taste without hurting others

Let's say you're having lunch with your friends at a Chinese dim sum place and one of them says

"These chicken feet are so delicious, you want to give it a try?"

Being born in the US, you've never eaten such thing before and you say

"Oh no, that's so disgusting! I can't imagine that you dare eat that..."

".............."



How do you think your friend should respond?



There're at least 190 countries in the world, each probably having very unique eating culture. My experience tells me that if you grow up eating something everyday, you just can't feel that it's disgusting, no matter how much it is to people who've not tried it before.

Actually, we don't only have eating culture in this world. We have music, fashion, painting, architecture, to name a few. My love towards Rachimanioff's piano concertos doesn't ridicule your passion on Joan Jett's rock songs. I like Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture doesn't mean that your favoring of Japanese Zen Gardens is bad.

When it comes to a matter of taste, there's just no right or wrong.

If you're arguing for, say, whether a government policy should be approved or not, even if you may hurt some other people's feelings (which isn't necessary in most of the cases methinks), it may be worth it because it has an effect on people's daily lives, some impact on the real world.

If you're arguing against somebody's taste, not only it's invalid because when there's no right or wrong, you just can't argue by definition, the effort is also wasted as it doesn't do any good to the world but hurting others' feelings.


"Well, I'm not arguing. I'm just being honest and expressing my true opinion. Are you telling me that I should lie?"

No, I'm not telling you to lie. But being honest doesn't mean that you need to hurt others' feelings. Even if you're being honest, there are better ways to tell your thoughts.

Taking the chicken feet case as an example, you could instead say

"Oh, that looks interesting. I like eating Shaomai more though, thanks for offering :)"

Hearing that, your friend may not realize that chicken feet are disgusting to you but at least s/he would know that you don't like eating them.

When I was in high school, my Chinese teacher once told us that we shouldn't read Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People because it would inhibit us from treating people genuinely. I do agree with what he said to a certain degree but I also think that the principles illustrated in the book show some of the most fundamental human traits. One of the principle says that

Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say, "You're wrong."

If you disagree with other people's taste sharply, they'd think that their feelings are wrong and feel bad, even though that's not your intention.

"As you said, it's not my intention, so it's their problem for interpreting it the wrong way."

Well, using that as an argument is like saying that it's not your intention to kill that guy by pushing him off the building because you think that he'll fly instead of hitting the ground and die.

It's not that people want to interpret your words this way, it's just how human minds work.

It does take some brain power to avoid conveying your message bluntly. However, I think it's worth it. Is that a phony act? I don't think so. Think of it as politeness. Do you think that always saying "thank you" to people after receiving help is phony? Probably not.

Appreciate the difference in tastes among people. It usually is the difference that fosters creativity :)

4 comments:

  1. I actually disagree a great deal with this post. (Oh, am I too honest?! Haha!) Will name a few:

    There's no right or wrong taste; but there's good or bad taste. :)

    If it is someone I consider true friend (and vice versa), I would like to be able to say my opinions. If it is real friend, why couldn't that person accept other people's opinion?

    One thing about "being hurt," why are people so easily hurt?! You don't think there's something wrong with that. In the mean while, I do think people should be discrete on what to say, but some people, they are just too sensitive, this has much to do with their ego.

    Anyhow, I guess cuz I'm the one who is always accused being to blunt. But I learn that, for people who can't appreciate my bluntness, I can't really be friends with them anyway. I do need to be my true self.

    :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. yun: Thanks a lot for your opinions. Please see my responses in the following:

    > There's no right or wrong taste; but there's good or bad taste

    The purpose I pointed out that there's no right or wrong taste was that there's no point to argue. Yup, there's good or bad taste and it's highly subjective. Since it's so subjective, there's still no point to argue.

    > If it is real friend, why couldn't that person accept other people's opinion?

    Even if it's a real friend, it'd be difficult for him/her to accept your opinion if you make his/hers sound like worthless. Everyone is free to voice his/her opinions; the key point is to express it respectfully.

    > I do think people should be discreet on what to say, but some people, they are just too sensitive, this has much to do with their ego.

    Yeah I agree that we need to strike a balance between being too blunt and too careful, and this is difficult and hard to define as in everything else. Some people just take it personally too easily. My general rule of thumb is to avoid very negative or exaggerating words such as "worst", "horrible", "absolutely", "ridiculous", etc.

    > But I learn that, for people who can't appreciate my bluntness, I can't really be friends with them anyway. I do need to be my true self.

    Yup it's important to be yourself and have friends who like you just the way you're. I still think that "blunt" is a negative word though and believe that one can be "direct" and "respectful" at the same time...

    :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. i think if you reject chicken feet with respect, it's better than just saying disgusting or not letting the one who's offering know you don't like it.

    as a friend, i'll try that chicken feet even i find it "disgusting" from the bottom of my heart!! who knows. you might actually like it and acquire a taste for it. Same for the other friend, they should appreciate the attempt and not be imposing too. there would always be compromises...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Tina: It's good that you're willing to try new things although they may not seem that "delicious" to your at first sight :)

    Sadly, from my own experience, the majority of people in this world are very stuck to things that they're used to and refuse to change. That perhaps is why there's a lot fewer innovators than consumers..

    ReplyDelete