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There were so many great comments on my post about dealing with confrontation and negativity, that I thought I'd follow-up and do a quick post about how and when to tell someone you’re vegan (or plant-strong), and how to talk about your lifestyle or diet in a way that won’t scare people off or cause them to power down and get defensive.
The Big Announcement: When to tell someone about your new diet and lifestyle depends on you, your comfort level and the relationship you have with the person you’re telling. Each situation is different and unique. Perhaps you’ll tell your best friend right away because you’re really excited about your newlifestyle, but you’ll wait a while to tell your parents because you sense they might be confused or disapproving.
It is also important to remember how “strange” your decision might sound to someone. While vegans and vegetarians are becoming more mainstream and commonplace (Bill Clinton, anyone?) it’s still shockingly foreign to many.
Also, be conscious of who you are talking to. The more you know about the listener, the better you’ll be able to tailor your explanation in a way that they will understand. For example, I know that my uncle, a hunter, would tune out anything I said if I started off on animal rights issues right away. He is very health conscious; however, so if I explained my choice to be vegan from a health perspective, he’d be more apt to listen to what I have to say and with a lot less judgment and preconceived notions.
Before you speak, take a moment to think about what your listener will empathize with, and begin with that issue.
Never feel pressured to explain or justify your choices. If someone can’t accept or respect your choices up-front, you probably won’t change their mind that day. No sense in getting worked up and frustrated trying...come back to it later.
If you do respond, give a clear, simple and concise statement. Try saying something like “I believe this is the healthiest choice for me and my family” or “I’m moved by the plight of farm animals. I don’t want to suffer or cause another living being to suffer.”
Don’t engage in debate if you don’t want to or you’re not comfortable. If someone tries to force it, simply say that you prefer not to discuss it at this time, but you’re happy to tell the listener where he or she can learn more.
Social Activism: Advocating your beliefs is noble, but there is a time and place in social situations. In my experience, I had zero converts when I tried to push my lifestyle on others. However, by being compassionately quiet and leading by example, friends and coworkers started asking me about it.
Then, by engaging in casual, non-judgmental conversation about my diet and lifestyle, I was able to plant a seed — a seed that later led many of these people to adopt plant-based (vegan) or semi-vegan diet. I really do believe in the power of leading by example and being a smiling, positive and gentle influence. Tread softly.
I’ve also given a lot of talks and speeches (I’ve even spoken at Google!) and the one compliment I get over and over again is how much people appreciate that I’m upbeat and encouraging--- not pushy or judgmental.
My “closing” statement is always “Anytime you can eat a vegan meal, do it. Your body will thank you.”
See how I accomplish this with my video via The Huffington Post: