Happy Herbivore Blog

October 28, 2011

How to Withstand Negativity

This comment was left on HH's Facebook wall the other day, and I felt inspired and motivated to talk about it (again). To put it in in context, we were talking about the terrific documentary, Forks Over Knives, which I can't recommend enough. 

Robert said: Now we need a film that teaches us how to withstand the negativity from our friends and family over our plant-based diet. Not just negativity, but real hostility. Why would someone get angry over another's choice of food?

My heart aches for Robert, and anyone else who has experienced this. I've written about the hostility I experienced when I first switched to a plant-based (vegan) before. I talked about how one friend stopped inviting me to her parties (thereby making it awkward not just for me, but our mutual friends) and another kept canceling plans with me for no good reason and it wasn't until I asked her about it that she said she just didn't want to hang out with me anymore because I didn't "eat real food."

Most of my friends and family have been supportive and even those who were not supportive initially, or who teased me, or were highly suspect, have since come around. They might not eat a plant-based diet themselves, but they don't fuss about it anymore -- so hang in there! 

I lost a few friends, true, but I feel that they must not have been true friends any way if what I put on my plate could unravel our friendship so easily. 

Of course, that doesn't take the hurt away, or the sting of rejection I felt back then but I survived it. I came out of it a better person with more awareness. I was able to see who my real friends were and in many ways, that allowed our relationships to blossom further and reach a new level they might not have reached otherwise without this experience. 

I think the "trick" in getting people to power down requires two very distinct actions from you:

1. you can't get defensive and lose your cool. 

2. you must lead by example.

Regarding the first action, understand that when people act this way towards you (angry, hostile, etc) know that its because your mere existence makes them reflect back on themselves and they don't like what they see. They then attack you to make themselves feel better.

Gaby replied to Robert, "People get upset when you do something they wish they did. I think they see it as a threat." 

Bingo.

I have found when people are so dogmatic about something, or they get so upset about something you are doing for yourself, it's never about you or what you are doing. It's about them and their own inner demons.

I like that saying the worst thing someone can say about you, reveals a little truth about them.

And for the second action point, you must always lead by example. 

Since adopting a plant-based diet, Scott & I have both lost a lot of weight, our skin has cleared and is glowing, we both reversed or drastically reduced health and medical issues we had. We have ran marathons, taken up snowboarding --- we are healthy, happy people. We are thriving and you just can't argue with that.

Seeing how healthy and happy we are shushed the naysayers and the suspects because these are clear, tangible and physical results you just can't argue with. 

At my last family reunion, a few years since they'd seen us -- many of my relatives who were on the naysayer side quickly shuffled over to our table with curiosity, asking questions about being vegan or eating a plant-based diet. They were interested and wanted to learn more -- we'd inspired a curiosity.

You will attract people to our way of life if you lead by example, kindly encourage and be supportive. Answer questions, never get angry or defensive and always keep a cool head. THIS WORKS! 

I've watched it happen within my own family and group of friends. Five years ago I was the only one. Now there are 13 of us -- and that is really the most beautiful result of all. 

For more on this topic, See my post, The Secret to Handling Confrontation and Outward Negativity. 

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