To speak or not to speak…

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Today was Rob’s birthday and with minute by minute precision and organisation I managed to get both him and I out the door and to a restaurant for a celebratory lunch before Preschool and school pick up and arvo hockey commitments. It is rare for just the two of us to go out alone so it was lovely to sit for a few hours, have a natter, a glass of something and of course have someone else cook for us.

We ordered a charcuterie plate to share to start then a main. I clearly remember saying “we’ll have that to start and then blah blah blah”. A little while later the little plates and cutlery arrived, both of us waiting in anticipation for said plate of tasty goodness. We waited and about 20 mins or so later out came the mains. When I asked about the whereabouts of the pate and bits they said “oh they’ve done it all at the same time”. Which was kinda weird. Seeing as it was a starter. But we just smiled. And nodded. And ate our mains and then kind of had a charcuterie dessert, which was even weirder. And of course followed by a panna cotta REAL dessert by me just to stop any confusion going on in my brain. Smile and nod.

I was chatting to my girlfriend at hockey practice this arvo who mentioned a situation she was in yesterday arvo. Post gym she had to line up to pay the fees for the term ahead. She waited in line, behind everyone else, with her FIVE, count them, FIVE kids all tired, a little cold and feral, waiting in line. She was next up when a woman behind her asked a quick question! That lasted for about 10 minutes. All over the top of her. And so she packed up and walked away without fees paid because: COME ON ALREADY I WAS NEXT IN LINE AND WANT TO GO HOME. Without saying anything and then stewing and ranting for the entire car trip home much to the disinterest of her twin 4 year olds.

Why do we do that? Just smile and nod? Or be quiet and not say anything. Another girlfriend said she often gets the wrong meals and just does the smile and nod and then not say anything….except get cranky on the way home and complain to our mates while we wait for our kids to do their arvo sport on a cold autumn afternoon.

Are you someone that will send something back? Or say something if cranky?
Or are you (like me) too polite for your own good? Or just understand that people make mistakes…bigger fish to fry in the world?ย I wonder why we are so keen to get angry online but we wouldn’t do it in person. Imagine if people said all the things they so freely say online in the real world? That would be a good comedy skit…people talking to each other like they do in comments in online news articles…

To say something or not? That is the question.
Or are you just so grateful to be out eating something made by someone else who cares if it’s wrong?!


  1. Sam Leader says

    My rule of thumb – borrowed from Brene Brown – is ‘choose discomfort over resentment’. ie if you knew you’re going to stew, say something, even if the conversation is going to be uncomfortable. Makes sense to me!

    • That Brene…she is onto something! Love her stuff. Thanks for sharing – hadn’t heard it before so thanks for sharing!!

  2. Lisa Mckenzie says

    I am usually polite too,I know I shouldn’t be but I am,I don’t like to make trouble!

  3. Khali Whatley says

    Always too polite. Always regret it afterwards.

  4. I can go either way depending on the situation. My natural tendency is to be too polite for my own good but I can fire up when something feels unnecessarily unjust. The one I always struggle with us when we are out for dinner with the kids and if something is wrong with my meal I usually put up with it. Last time that was a piece of red emperor so over cooked the fibres of the fish had matted together so it was hard to cut. I would love to have sent it back but everyone had their meals and by the time a new one would have come out for me I would have been eating on my own with the kids going feral. Lose / lose.

    • Sounds like any Mother – putting everyone first before herself. I do the same too – if something REALLY pisses me off I tend to say so.

  5. I ALWAYS say something, and I end up apologising for it. Why I apologise for their fuck ups is beyond me. I go way overboard being polite about it. And I’ve been this way since forever. When I was 11 we stayed in a hotel in Singapore and I filled in their customer survey form and complained (about what I do not know) – they STILL send me a $50 voucher EVERY year for when I next stay there. It will be 29 years this October.

  6. I never say anything either. I’m just too polite and/or spineless. But also, I’m so good at making mistakes and make so many that it’s always such a relief when someone else stuffs up.

  7. Depends – but I’d like to challenge the notion that not speaking up when somebody else stuffs up is “polite”. I think that’s the wrong word. It’s impolite to bring the wrong meal, or to take loads of time getting your burning questions answered when other people are waiting. Or be a jerk in a car park or at sports in front of the kids.
    It’s the old assertive/aggressive conundrum. And I think as women we are taught – overtly or not – that we should SHOOSH UP and NOT MAKE A FUSS. I say BOLLOCKS TO THAT!! And before you think I’m shouty, you can very easily point out an error without going mental at someone. You can use your words, without being a demanding bitch.
    If you asked men this question I’m sure you’d get a very different response to the idea of just shooshing up.

  8. Normally I’m a nod & smile kind of girl but this arvo I was ugly hangry & sent a very snippy text reply to our dog groomer who had pro-actively booked our dog in for a groom first thing tomorrow morning & not told me about it.
    Poor girl… it’s going to be a little uncomfortable when I see her next. Hope she doesn’t take it out on my pooch!!

  9. I never say it
    Mainly because i cant b fagged
    And sometimes all it creates is tension
    Not worth it
    Online or real life
    But then i do come home and kinda roar about it for about 24 hours bahahaha
    And also a fear of ever sounding like the evil nasty customers you had when you were a little casual worker in your teens ‘shudder’

  10. Debs Sutton says

    I like to think I’m politely assertive if there’s such a term??!!! I always was very polite and like you would smile & nod,really not to make a fuss I suppose……I can’t remember making a conscious change. Now I will send meals back,complain to Customer Service Dept’s if I’ve had shoddy produce/treatment or speak to the manager. I feel better for having done so & they can make ammends or changes. Win,win situation!!!!!

  11. I’m not a particularly forthcoming person, but since I’ve been in Dubai I’ve learnt that I have to be or else nothing gets done! Like the time the gas man brought the wrong size gas bottle and wanted to charge me extra for a smaller bottle ‘because it’s not a direct swap’.

    If I got a wrong meal at a restaurant I would definitely speak up, but if I was in someone’s home and they gave me the wrong drink I would let it slide. I would speak up in a situation where I’m paying or I’m been given a service and they get it wrong especially if I had my heart set on something, otherwise I’m unlikely to. Although in your situation I probably wouldn’t have spoken up as I’m getting what I ordered, just not how I ordered it, especially if time was of the essence. Also, I’ve never sent back a meal because it’s cold/under done/over done/ whatever. I’m the person who would say to waiter “Oh it was nice, I’m just full” when I hated it.

    As for the queue situation I would have done exactly what your friend did, walked away exasperated. I”m not a confrontational person off line or online! Confrontation or the chance of nastiness makes my skin crawl!

  12. Having done a lot of QA and feedback in my prior job, I mostly think of providing feedback just as a normal part of doing business, whether it’s positive or negative. It’s essential for any business, and most companies actively seek customer response. Usually services can be broken down specifically, and those exact terms and details are what to use in your constructive feedback, so it’s never anything personal, which is what some may fear and avoid. It’s a skill that can be developed like any other, and women can choose to exercise that option or not, and use and strengthen that muscle more or less.

  13. I always speak up, as politely as possible. Otherwise I end up really disappointed, and I’m the one who loses out, when it wasn’t my error. Maybe that makes me rude or impolite, but especially when I’m eating out, I want to enjoy myself to the fullest. Especially if food is not hot enough or not served as written on the menu, I think that is just poor form.

  14. I have started speaking up. Its definitely worthwhile, recently on holiday I eventually asked where our drinks were at one restaurant, and another restaurant where our meals were ( after watching every table after us get served) In both cases orders forgotton/lost. received complimentary drinks/dessert. I feel like a cranky middle aged getting old old bag complaining, but I’ve just generally found service poor in restaurants and shops for that matter. I have to say I would have interrupted the lady at gym, after a couple of minutes and politely said, thats not a quick question, I was next in line.- afterall She was asking cos she couldnt be bothered waiting behind 5 kids!

  15. I have the opposite problem. According to my husband I’m far too assertive. I’ve been working on ‘shutting up’ a bit more recently. My big insight was to think about this … ‘how do MY reactions effect ME?’. Simple but I mulled on it for days and realised that when I huff and puff at someone I usually only upset myself in the end. So I’m trying to learn to let things slide. My family is from South Africa and south african women are always very strong, opinionated and assertive in my experience. I love it. All my mum’s friends are like that and I’ve just grown up with it I guess. But I’m trying to find a balance!

  16. I used to do the speak and nod, but not any more. I’ll let someone know that they’ve pushed in and to get to their own spot in line. I’ll speak up at a restaurant. I think if you do it politely and not aggressively people are usually okay with it. I was proud of myself for speaking up when seeing Cirque de Soleil and it got cut short considerably. That’s an expensive show. We got to see it again for nothing and saw the lot that time.

  17. I guess it all depends on the situation, but usually I say something. If I don’t, I stew and get cranky at all the wrong people (poor family…..). The crappy thing about your lunch is that you don’t get to do it often (I hear ya) and it turned out to be really weird which took away from your enjoyment. I’m pissy for you:) And as for that woman behind your friend? Don’t get me started on her….. Clearly I need to do some deep meditative breathing xo

  18. I’d say something, the restaurant needs the feedback sometimes.

  19. I sent back a fish stew, the fish was raw, in a posh seafood restaurant in Darling Harbour. I was very polite and asked that it be cooked a little more. I then spent the entire performance of Les Miserables in the ladies loo throwing up while my partner spent our anniversary watching the show. I never complain now, I just leave it and rant on my way home – useless.

  20. Just this morning I took a coffee back that was cold. Profuse apologies from the barista and a replacement arrived quick smart. It’s something I never used to do but have no problem with now. I reckon if you’re paying for a good or service you should get what you’re paying for. Maybe it’s the turning 40 thing, no longer bothered by offending people quite so much!

  21. I do tend to say something. But politely, always politely. Often it’s not the person you’re dealing with who has made the mistake and they shouldn’t have to put up with people being rude!! But at the same time I’m equally prone to giving compliments and positive feedback. I think people in hospitality, admin and the like often only ever have to put up with the negative feed back (and its rarely their fault!). I get a real kick out of giving positive feed back ‘cos sometimes you can make someone’s day!! ๐Ÿ™‚
    P.S. I love your blog ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks Cat! I am the first to tell a stranger they look fabulous and give compliments so maybe I’ll start with “constructive” feedback now too!

  22. It’s an age thing, the older we get the more likely to speak up. To the point that women in their 70s tend to develop a form of tourettes where they find they cant edit themselves and just speak their mind whatever and whenever it is and to whomever. We’re all doomed.

    • We sure are! I just figured out this is the start of cranky old women syndrome. Next thing I know I’ll be tut tutting at people who don’t put shoes on their kids feet!

  23. I am still hurting over a deeply sub-standard toasted focaccia I received more than fifteen years ago. I vowed never to sit in silence again!

  24. Margaret Elvis says

    We seldom go out for meals now and, if we do, not to expensive restaurants. I have in the past sent something back but only if it was really wrong. I think if you expect good service and are paying a decent price for anything then you are entitled to politely explain you are not satisfied.
    Main word there is ‘politely’ but firmly if you get any resistance to your complaint.

  25. I need to learn to speak up a bit more, I’ve always remained quiet and then bitched afterwards to my poor husband. I definitely think there is a polite but firm way of doing it and I intend to master that art!

  26. 100% say something if you are bothered. But always do it graciously and with a smile on your face. I think most of the time, most people are doing the best they can and stuff ups occur. Just let them know in the way you would like to be told.

  27. I speak up. I’m just that type of person. I do it online too which has gotten me a lot of “haters”. My husband is the opposite and I see him just shrinking into his chair when we’re in a situation like you mentioned in this post! I’m trying not to do it all the time, to let things slide and not be so worried about things but yep, I’m that person. I’ll call you out if you pushed in!

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