How Do You Respond to a Recommendation You Didn’t Enjoy?

I’m sure this has happened to you: A friend raves about something–a restaurant, movie, book, game, etc–and highly recommends it to you. But when you try it, you find that you just didn’t enjoy it. Later, the friend eagerly asks you if you liked it. What do you say?

Before you answer, also take a second to think about the reverse: Those times that you’ve recommended something you adore, and the person didn’t like it (or maybe even didn’t say anything about it). How did that make you feel?

I’ve definitely been on both sides of this. You can probably tell from this blog that I often recommend things I love, both in general and for specific people. And while I know it’s never personal if someone doesn’t like something I love, there’s something about hearing that someone didn’t care for it that doesn’t feel great.

When I’m on the other side, I go with the compliment sandwich method: Instead of focusing on how my affection for the thing isn’t as high as the other person’s, I just mention some elements of it that I did enjoy, and maybe I’ll toss in a short critique or question, more for the sake of discussion. Basically, I try to be considerate of the fact that the other person is passionate about the thing.

But perhaps I’m a delicate flower and this isn’t a concern for most people. Do you care if/how someone responds if they don’t enjoy something you love that you recommended to them? If so, how would you like them to respond (while still leaving plenty of room for them to be authentic with you)?

For what it’s worth, I’m posting this without a specific example, as this question wasn’t provoked by a specific recommendation or situation.

5 thoughts on “How Do You Respond to a Recommendation You Didn’t Enjoy?”

  1. I take it as an opportunity for improvement: 1) I now know that friend’s tastes better and can make recommendations that are more suited to them; 2) I now know where my blind spots are about something I love, so I can take that into consideration when recommending it in the future.

    • That’s a very mature approach–I like it! How do you respond when you don’t like something that someone was eager for you to enjoy?

  2. I tend to take the self-deprecating approach as though it seems like it’s pretty good but just not for me because of some specific things about my own tastes.

    I still carry deep scars from my teenage years when my recommendation of my beloved Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series fell flat with a friend. That was a hard time.

  3. With my friends, generally, the conversation goes:
    Me: “Hey, did you read that book I love?”
    Them: “Yeah. I didn’t love it, but I see why you did.”
    Me: “Yeah. Oh well. What else have you been reading lately?”

    Sometimes if I’m the one saying I didn’t like something, I will take the opportunity to ask the other person about why they loved it so much and let them talk about it. Sometimes a person recommends something because they really want someone to talk to about it without having to be careful of spoilers. So unless I hated it so much I just can’t stand to talk about it, it’s a chance for them to get things off their chest that they’ve been holding in while waiting for me to catch up.

  4. Jamey,

    Interesting conundrum…I think, for me, it has a lot to do with the person who made the recommendation. If it’s acquaintance, I’m probably much more diplomatic, but if it’s a friend of 30+ years, I’m much more direct. With the former, I’ve had folks recommend books, as I’m a voracious reader, but that doesn’t mean that I read anything. By contrast, in the latter example, I had a friend recommend a western that he loves. For me, it was entertaining at all and we had an over an hour-long conversation about why each of us had our positions. That ended-up being much more entertaining for me.



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