DEAR HARRIETTE: I went to a dinner party where the food wasn’t good. I was sitting in the kitchen toward the end of the evening, chilling, when the chef started talking to me. She was nice and had worked hard to make the event fun. She asked me what I thought of the meal, and I wasn’t sure what to say. The party's host is my friend, so I wanted to be sensitive to the situation, but honestly, the food was not good. It was bland and boring. I didn’t really answer her, and I’m not sure if that was helpful. Feedback can be helpful if people want to improve. I didn’t want to make waves. What do you think I should have done? -- Withholding Feedback, Syracuse, New York
DEAR WITHHOLDING FEEDBACK: In the moment, you might have shared your feedback in a private and honest way. You were asked directly what you thought. Ideally, you would have pointed out something that you liked about a dish, the presentation or something else, before you made any criticisms. Interaction between you and the chef could have been helpful and could have stayed private -- between you two -- had you simply told the truth.
Since you did not answer her, it is time to let it go. You missed your best opportunity to be helpful without being hurtful. Telling your friend what you think about the food can be embarrassing for her and detrimental to her relationship with the chef. At this point, keep the feedback to yourself. Next time, be attuned to the moment. When you have a clear chance of offering constructive feedback to someone, take it. Otherwise, stay quiet.