The sixth rule of civility is “I will be respectful of others whether or not I like or agree with them.”
I thought of this rule the other day when a friend shared a conversation she’d had with a coworker recently. It seems the coworker is a health nut of sorts, but, against character, had made an appointment to go to a tanning salon. Her reasoning was that she was going on vacation soon, and wanted to get a base tan so she wouldn’t burn on her cruise.
My friend, whose husband is a dermatologist, was surprised. This woman, who is about 20 years younger, is notoriously obsessed with looking young and having good skin. Surely exposing her fair skin to a tanning bed would undermine that. My friend pointed that out, but the woman was defensive. A woman she knew had a very healthy lifestyle, she claimed, and insisted that the occasional tan was totally fine. My friend disagreed, and a debate started to form. Things were starting to get a little heated when my friend caught herself, stepped back, and thought, “Is this really worth fighting over? Why do I care?”
Ultimately, she decided to drop the issue. This woman was a coworker and would do as she pleased anyway. It was not my friend’s job to agree with her or educate her. If she got burned or suffered bad skin as a result, that was her business and had nothing to do with my friend. The temptation to be a know-it-all can be strong, and I know my friend secretly wants to be proven right, but you really have to pick your battles. It’s okay to not agree on the way someone else does things, especially if it has no bearing on you and is not harmful to others. If this coworker was planning to drive home drunk after happy hour, yes, someone would have to intervene. But if she wants to use a tanning booth, it’s up to her.
Sometimes you just have to let it go.