Happy Herbivore Blog

March 1, 2012

Dealing With Negativity from Family & Friends

Dealing with negativity, a topic that unfortunately never goes away. Whether you are just starting something new or have been doing it for years, the negativity from others is still there. It isn't limited to following a plant-based (vegan) diet, it can be any change or belief in your life.

While there are friends and family who are supportive of your decision, there will be some that give you a hard time or make you feel bad about your choices. I have seen in time that they either came around to accepting my choice, or we are no longer friends. 

While I was upset about this at first, I realized that real friends would support me and my decisions no matter what. What if the decision wasn't about food but about clothes. Would it be different if they didn't like a pink dress at the store because it was pink? Would they try to talk me out of buying it? Would they have turned their backs on our friendship? No. A real friend would be there for me, even if she didn't agree with my choice (be it my clothing or a plant-based diet). 

I have written several posts before about my experience handling confrontation and withstanding negativity. After all these years, I still don't understand why what I put on my plate matters to other people or how it can offend them so much.

Recently Jess asked on Facebook, "anyone have any advice on how to deal with family/friends/coworkers giving you a hard time about being vegan or following a plant based diet? I am so tired of being harassed! Yesterday was my birthday and my whole family got together complaining that I'm doing this to annoy them and to make it more difficult on THEM."

I found that when people act this way (angry, hostile, etc) its because your choices and actions make them reflect back on themselves and they don't like what they see. They then attack you to make themselves feel better. 

Another Herbie, Lorri, told her to stand strong in her convictions, saying "as long as you give in, compromise or doing anything contrary to what you are saying you believe you are just reinforcing the idea that you are not really serious about this and can be easily swayed or bullied into what they want you to do. Just be kind but firm do not budge one inch or you will never be taken seriously and the harassment will never stop."

She is right, if you waiver in your decision (ie., eating cheese or milk, after saying you are vegan) people will not believe you. They won't know where your boundaries are and they will continue to push them.

When starting out I would also try not to get defensive and not lose my cool. By keeping calm, it shows resolve and determination. A shouting match does nobody any good, and just makes events unpleasant.

Regina added that "with my friends who start out negative I've found if I only say it's for health reasons they react well." While some people may try to argue 'health benefits' of dairy & meat, most will drop the subject. Rather than getting into a heated debate, one could say that they are following a doctors advice, which usually ends the conversation (I can think of several doctors that recommend a plant-based diet for health off the top of my head). Sometimes I will talk about the negative health effects, but I avoid heated debates where neither side is actually listening to the other. Nothing is accomplished that way.

Stephanie also added to the Facebook conversation saying that "in my experience some of the naysayers eventually even start inquiring more about your reasons and ability to stick with what they see as a "restrictive diet". Try not to get defensive, but stand your ground."

This has been my experience too. Some of my friends did the same thing. While at first they confronted me and questioned my choice, after a while their questions became about what type of food I was eating, the weight I was losing, and why I made the decision.

In time I have found that the naysayers have subsided and the confrontations have become few and far between. Somewhere along the way, they began to see that the decision to be plant-based is about me and not just me trying to make their life more difficult.

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