“How to politely decline co-worker’s homemade holiday food?”

Submitted Request..

This post is an answer to a submitted question. It aims to provide help and solutions to overcome the issue.

Podcast version: HERE

Quote:  Clear, specific communication is the difference between confusion and clarity.

Submitted Question

"How do I turn down my co-worker’s homemade food around the holidays?

I have a coworker who loves to bake and share with the office, I think it's their language of love or something. Last week they were very excited about their cupcakes and wanted everyone to try it. I refused.

My response was polite: "I appreciate the offer, but no thanks."

Another co-worker later told me I hurt their feelings and I should apologize. I said I was polite and is an adult, who should be able to take rejection, especially when it is not meant in a hurtful way.

I don't even know what I would be apologizing for. Refusing to eat something I didn't want or request?

I am on a strict diet. I honestly don’t want potluck food. I don’t know how it was prepared and I am working on sorting out what foods work well with my body and not wanting to gain 10 pounds over the holidays. 

I feel I should be able to decline offers that fall outside my diet without explanation. My body, and my medical situation isn't for office discussion. 

One coworker thinks since I am down some weight it wouldn't hurt to reward myself and make this other coworker happy.

I compared the situation to forcing a recovering alcoholic to have a drink. This didn't go well but I am addicted to sweets.

I would gladly accept a healthy homemade snack that fits my diet.

How do I navigate this going into the holiday season it's only going to get worse; the pressure is building, and I don't want to be the outcast. 

My Response if we were in a coaching setting. Although without being able to ask questions, I may assume or use scenarios to fill in the gaps.

I hear you want to stick firmly to your goals, diet and want to maintain peace and acceptance in your workplace.

There can never be a guarantee that you won't offend someone, no matter how hard you try.

Each individuals feelings are for themselves to manage, it's no one else's job. 

That being said, I am not saying be mean, rude, judgmental or critical of others. There's an easier way and this is a great opportunity to connect, bond and create a deeper emotional understanding of those that you work with. 

There is a delicate balance between expressing ourselves and being mindful of others' emotions. However, it is important to remember that if we constantly live our lives solely focused on managing other people's feelings, we risk losing our own sense of self. We are giving our power away and it enables this behavior to continue and grow.

In this world filled with diverse perspectives, cultures, motives and ways of expressing ourselves, it is virtually impossible to please everyone. People have different sensitivities, triggers, and boundaries, making it impossible to ensure that our words and actions never cause offense. Even with the best intentions and careful consideration, there will always be someone who interprets our words differently or takes offense for reasons we may never fully understand. 

Should we let this fear of offending others dictate how we express ourselves? 

When we operate from fear things tend to get worse and messy. You see we don’t think clearly and often leads to positioning, defensiveness, blaming, guilt, and shame. "messy"

Should we constantly tiptoe around topics or restrain our opinions in the hopes of avoiding controversy? While it is important to be mindful and respectful of others people, we must also recognize the importance of staying true to ourselves.

Suppressing our thoughts and opinions in fear of causing offense can be detrimental to our own growth and well-being. When doing this negative emotions tend to build and now you're forcing a giant pool ball under water, it's going to pop up eventually. 

By constantly prioritizing the emotions of others, we risk losing our own voice and identity in the process. We can start to be manipulated and swayed into behaviors that don't serve us. 

Stay firm to what serves you. 

Set your our goals and stick to them, be an example, model the behavior you want, stay connected to what’s important to you. 

Spark a conversation about peer pressure, if anyone's experienced it and how they handled it. Keeping the topic non specific, and a time that’s not when foods being dished out. You might find that everyone has experienced it at some point in their life. Be curious like a child how they delt with it and any fall out as a result of how they handled it. 

Your identity is yours to create, and foster.

It is crucial to strike a balance between being considerate of others' feelings and staying authentic to ourselves. This means being emotionally intelligent. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to manage both your own emotions and understand the emotions of people around you. This isn't changing your beliefs, this is seeking to understand how we are all different, our realities are unique to each of us like our fingerprints. Being ok that we have different opinions, being accepting and inviting to hear how others are experience life without labeling their way our your way as right/wrong. This is a super power some have, and others like me have to learn and become skilled at. 

What I am pointing to is this is a great opportunity to create a healthy conversation. 

Rather than falling into pleasing others in fear of offending others, lying to hide your feeling, focus on empathy towards yourself and in this situation your coworkers. Seek to understand their perspectives and be vulnerable and share as much as your comfortable sharing in regards to your struggles, worries and concerns about food, pressures and how it's causing some concerns of hurting peoples feelings, and not your intentions.  When we are vulnerable, honest, and share our feelings others will confess to their vulnerability as well. This will deepen trust and understanding in any relationship, work or otherwise. 

Cultivate open healthy communication, express what concerns you about the holiday season now, rather than wait until the food is already made and offered. 

Remember no one, no person, or situation can inject feelings into you. Your feelings are coming from your thoughts, your judgements your perceptions and what you're making this mean about you. 

Want to feel differently than feeling peer pressure, an outcast, that you've done something wrong, or that you have to apologize, shift your thoughts to ones that serve you. Stand firm on who you are, extending compassion and empathy towards others. How do you want to feel? Perhaps you want to feel proud, strong, capable, accepted, valued, heard, bold, confident, inspiring, empowered, connected, safe, comfortable... These words will help you with the HOW and WHAT to do. You have the answers inside you. Be you, be who you are! If these were your words they hold personal meaning, and energy, tap into these words, what they mean for you, take positive inspiring powerful action! 

Be open, curious and seek to understand what others might be struggling with and how they deal with peer pressure. Be curious what the story is behind their baking and cooking, very likely their intentions are coming from a good place, and may have sentimental value attached to it. If you're willing and open to a conversation, getting to know them better you may discover so much you never knew about them, offering some time and space for them to feel heard, important and accepted. That's what we all want right? I get the sense from your submission that's what you want as well. When we offer it to others, they will return it. 

When we become open and curious we tend to see there's an opportunity to learn something about ourself and others we are around in our day to day life. We can also see that there's more options available beside saying yes or no.

I hope this helps. I wish you all the best. Please share this with anyone you believe would benefit from the insights. Post a comment, I read and reply to them all. Thank you in advance!

If you want to send a question, please send to hello@katherine-hood.com please include: 

  • A coachable question (something that addresses what's in your control, your thoughts, feelings or actions.)
  • And context, explain a situation in the past, currently going through, or worries/concerns of the future, giving me some details on your thoughts and feelings about it. 

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