On Advocating for Food Allergies
Each week on my instagram, I look for a quote that I feel connects with my food allergy journey, and I briefly describe why. My Quote of the Day series is a repost of what I put on instagram.
I worked in retail for a few years in high school. My coworkers and I saw all kinds of different people walk through those doors at our store. Some of the people I met were great, some not so much. But no matter their personalities, usually when shoppers approached me, it was because they needed help finding something or they felt something was wrong.
I like to think back on my retail experience when I consider food allergy advocacy. Sometimes it is hard to know exactly how to approach an issue you might have. If something is wrong or feels wrong, it can be easy to get upset. To be rude. “How dare these people say this or do that to me!” I think there is a time and a place to go full on defensive. Some people and situations require it. But I don’t think that should be the plan of action for everything. Here’s why:
When I think about an upset customer at the store I worked at, sometimes I still get stressed. There were customers that would just immediately default to anger towards us on even the smallest issues like asking about misplaced sunglasses. As someone who has been subject to this almost aggressive behavior, I can say that I have felt more inclined to just finish up with that kind of customer as soon as possible. They made me feel targeted, uncomfortable, and stressed.
However, when I think about customers who approached me kindly, stating their concerns with respect and understanding, I can recall that I responded rather differently. Those who are kind to me inspired me to want to help them more. To go above and beyond. Assertive is very different than aggressive. I listened better when I felt that I was being approached as an equal.
So although there are some real jerks in the world that need a bit of ruffled feathers, for the most part, I think it is better to approach allergy advocacy work with respect and recognition that the offender might not realize what they are doing yet. Instead of coming across constantly angry and ready to fight, I think we should approach things with class, respect, and eloquently. Haters will hate, but it’s a lot harder to attack verbally when nobody takes the bait like they hoped.
Ultimately, allergy advocacy is about creating awareness and helping later generations get around in this world a bit easier. Do what you have to do to keep yourself safe. Always speak up! Yet, it doesn’t hurt to put some extra thought into what you say.