It’s interesting to think about the stages of life we go through as it relates to something like this and the various reactions we have as a result of our age. When you were a kid – you didn’t really care. Brownies, pepperoni, all the food you could, you would do the “see food” thing and open a mouthful of food in front of friends, family, strangers – whoever. Then, you became a teen and it had to be one of the most awful things entirely – food in your teeth, especially your braces, was worthy of a few missed school days to recover from the embarrassment.

Fast-forward to being employed. You are at lunch with colleagues and when you get back to the office, you notice what is basically an entire head of kale covering your front tooth. How did nobody tell you it was there? This is the first reaction. How did nobody tell me this was there?

To me, this is a test of many other things our friends and colleagues would be willing to say when it would be helpful for them to say it. Granted, it may not be obvious to everyone around you (even though you are thinking this piece of kale could serve as an appetizer because it is so large), but let’s give some of them the benefit of the doubt. The one(s) who did notice it and said nothing – these are the people who worry me. Where else are they not hooking you up with useful advice? What else might make us ‘look better’ if we did something or stopped doing something else that they aren’t sharing with us?

Some things are tough to hear and people react differently to criticism, but when you get a chance to make someone better, take it. It starts with the kale in the teeth or the bad breath or the stained shirt. Most people will welcome the insight on that level and thank you for offering it. From there, it could be an opening to be even more helpful in other areas of life.

Share some stories about where this may have backfired on you or where it helped you build a relationship with someone you didn’t have before. I am sure there are stories on both sides!