R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Ms. Franklin sang about it. We all want it. But not all of us are willing to give it.

When I was about 10-years-old, my family moved into a new apartment in the suburbs of Atlanta, and our neighbor across the hall was an outspoken New Yorker named Claudia. She had a special needs son, who, among other things, had no short term memory. And she had two dogs — keeshonds, one of which was named Murphy (I’ve completely forgotten the other dog’s name!)

We spent a lot of time at Claudia’s house, my mom and I. We would go over to watch TV and sip tea and play with the dogs. I assume we went so often because it was so hard for Claudia to get out of the house with her son.

So, one afternoon, as we sat at Claudia’s, I remember making a bold statement about something I didn’t like. Something that Claudia had already said she enjoyed very much. I have no idea what it was. Probably some type of food, or maybe music, but that’s irrelevant. What she said to me in that moment, though, was a life lesson I would carry with me to this very day, 25 years later.

“Don’t ever insult someone else’s taste.”

Now, I’m sure my mom and dad had said this to me before — maybe even in those exact words — but it wasn’t until someone else said it to me that it really made an impact. It was in that moment that I realized I had hurt someone’s feelings and had the power to make them feel small and less-than simply by voicing my opinion. I, personally, hated that feeling.

I know a lot of people in this Social Media age might say, “Screw you! I’m entitled to my opinion!” And that’s true. But do you really want to be that person that belittles people just because they have different tastes than you? Has it become cool to make people feel badly because they like something you don’t?

Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect. I’m sure I’ve done my share of “OMG! That was the WORST!!!” in the company of people who might have thought it was THE BEST! We’re all human, and we all slip up occasionally. But I would challenge my friends, family and readers, to not be that person who feels the need to make other people feel like crap in the face of your differences. 

Not to say that you shouldn’t ever voice your opinion, but there’s a right and wrong way to do it. My rules:

1) Try to avoid strong words like “hate”. Saying, “I’m not the biggest fan — I prefer…” gets your point across just as well without offending, and moves you in a direction that maybe you can both agree on. 

2) Know your audience. If you know someone absolutely LOVES something that you think is lame, don’t rain on their parade. Just smile and accept them for the freak you think they are. Otherwise, you’re just being rude. 

3) Keep trying. My husband LOVES anything that tastes like a creamsicle. You know, that orangey-vanilla flavor? To me, it tastes like the Children’s Tylenol tabs I had to take when I was a kid, thereby dragging me back to unpleasant times every time I taste it. But because my hubby loves it SO MUCH, I always take a little taste, just to see if anything has changed. It hasn’t. But at least I’m willing to try, right? 

So next time you’re tempted to voice your strong opinions in the face of someone who has different tastes from you, try to hear my old friend Claudia in your head telling you, “Don’t insult other people’s taste.” 

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