If you read my previous FAQ posts (part 1 and part 2 ), you’ll know this post was coming to help answer one of the biggest and most frequently asked question about going vegan: talking to family! Communication about your vegan lifestyle is hard for most people in the beginning. Through much trial and error, I finally feel like I’m in a place where I’ve figured out what works for me, so with that, here are a few tips on how to talk to friends and family about your veganism.
1) Pick your battles: When you come to the awakening of the mass suffering of animals, destruction of the planet, and the dark realization that the food we eat may be killing us, its hard to not be passionate all the time and feel the need to tell everyone about the truth you’ve just discovered. Unfortunately, most of the time most people aren’t going to be at a place where they’re ready to listen to something that may make them feel defensive, so pick your battles wisely and know when it’s okay to let things go. People may probe you, they may tease you, or they may say things that hurt or offend you – thats okay. Unless its exactly the right moment to lay down some major truth, usually I’ve found its best to just ignore people and bite my tongue. (I will admit though that this is very difficult for me and I get it wrong all the time – its a work in progress). Rarely have my impassioned monologues about speciesism landed well when people weren’t asking to hear about it.
2) Pick your timing: Similar to picking your battles, be mindful of when you choose to get on your soapbox. Generally speaking, talking about food issues while people are eating is not a best practice. If you do want to talk about your new lifestyle, your new discoveries, or what you believe in, try to find a time when things are relatively calm, neutral, and when you’ve given yourself enough time to speak with intention rather than as a gut reaction.
3) Remember your own journey: Unless you were born and raised vegan, you’ve probably been on some sort of long journey to get to the place where you are today. Stay humble and remember your own journey as you approach conversations with others about your lifestyle. This becomes more and more important the longer you are vegan, as its easy to forget what life used to be like before veganism and it becomes harder to understand why others around you still haven’t caught up. I try to remind people when I sense them pulling away that I was not vegan for ~26 years; if I could become vegan, then anyone can. If you can meet people where they are, they are more likely to respect what you have to say.
4) Speak your truth: Given my previous advice, some may feel like this approach is too ‘soft’ for an issue that is so important. I would say thats probably true, because we’re dealing with deeply ingrained cultural addictions and an iron-clad social cognitive dissonance, thus communicating with non-vegans is much more of a soft squishy people-art than it is any sort of science. That said, there is one thing I’m adamant you should never be soft on, and that is: speaking your truth. Know your truth, set compassionate intentions, and be strong and unwavering in your choices while setting healthy boundaries with other people. Many people will not want you to be vegan, vegetarian, or anything that may make them question themselves in the slightest bit and they will fight you tooth and nail the entire time. Stand your ground and do not let other people’s dissonance or their harsh treatment sway you out of living in a way that is in alignment with your values. Speak about your beliefs with pride, when the timing is right, and live joyfully in your veganism. Call out injustices when you see them (not just about animals but anything – it’s all connected), refuse to participate in behaviors that don’t serve you, and be a loving voice for whatever it is you care about. It takes a whole lot of courage to defy the status quo, but there is nothing more important or more beautiful than living your truth.
Those are four of my best tips for starting and maintaining good dialogue with difficult people about veganism. What strategies have helped you? What questions do you have? Share in the comments below!