Passionate discussions about food choices are nothing new. Whether it’s because of health concerns, ethical considerations, or good old-fashioned pickiness, people have been debating what (and how) to eat for centuries.
You know how it is. You’re out to dinner with friends, and the conversation veers towards the topic of food. “So, what are you eating these days?” someone asks, and before you know it, you’re defending your decision to go vegan. Again.
So, how can you talk about veganism in a respectful and informative way? The following are some tips for how to talk about veganism the right way.
1. Be prepared.
If you want to be taken seriously when talking about veganism, it’s important to have a good understanding of the issues yourself. So, first, learn about the environmental impact of animal agriculture and the ethical considerations involved in using animals for food, clothing, and other purposes. Then, when you can confidently speak about the reasons behind your choices, non-vegans will be more likely to listen—and maybe even be persuaded themselves.
2. Be respectful.
It’s important to remember that not everyone will agree with your choice to be vegan. So no matter how frustrating the conversation gets, always remember to be respectful toward the other person.
Avoid getting defensive or attacking anyone who disagrees with you. Name-calling and personal attacks will only make you look bad and damage your cause. Just because someone isn’t vegan doesn’t mean they’re ignorant or deserve to be ridiculed. If you can keep your cool, you’ll come across as reasoned and level-headed—two things sure to win people over.
Remember that everyone is on their own journey, and each person will come to veganism in their own time, if at all.
3. Be open-minded.
Just as you expect others to be respectful of your beliefs, it’s also important to be respectful of theirs. So be open to hearing other people’s opinions and perspectives on veganism. You may even learn something new!
4. Be confident.
Confidence is key when discussing any controversial topic, but it’s especially important when talking about veganism. People are likelier to listen to someone confident in their beliefs than unsure or hesitant.
5. Educate, don’t preach.
If someone is interested in learning more about veganism, take the opportunity to share your knowledge in a respectful way. But if someone isn’t interested or seems hostile, there’s no need to force the issue.
6. Focus on the positive.
There’s no need to dwell on the negative aspects of animal agriculture or make non-vegans feel guilty about their choices. Instead, focus on the reasons why you chose to go vegan and how it’s made a positive impact on your life.
7. Be patient.
Just because someone isn’t ready to go vegan now doesn’t mean they will never be. The more open and understanding you are, the more likely it is that they’ll reconsider their own dietary choices down the line.
8. Attack the misconceptions, not the person.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there about veganism. And when you’re in a debate with someone who is clinging to those misconceptions, it can be tempting to tell them they’re wrong. But that’s not going to do anyone any good. So instead, try to gently correct the false information they’re believing. Chances are, they’ll be more receptive to what you have to say if you’re not attacking them personally.
9. Avoid absolutes.
When discussing veganism, it’s essential to avoid absolutes whenever possible. For example, instead of saying, “meat is gross,” try something like, “I personally don’t enjoy the taste of meat.” It may seem like a slight distinction, but it dramatically affects how open the other person is likely to be toward what you’re saying.
10. Listen as much as you talk.
It can be easy to get caught up in trying to make your case and prove that veganism is the right way to go. But if you’re doing all the talking and not giving the other person a chance to speak, chances are they’re just tuning you out completely. So take a step back, take a deep breath, and listen to what they have to say. Not only will it make them feel heard and respected, but it might just give you some valuable insights into why they feel the way they do—insights that can help you fine-tune your own argument.
11. Pick your battles.
There’s no need to debate veganism every time the topic comes up (especially if you’re not in the mood). Let it go if someone makes a snarky comment or says something that is meant to provoke an argument. This isn’t worth your time or energy—and besides, debates rarely change people’s minds. Instead, focus on conversations with people interested in learning more about veganism and are open to hearing what you have to say.
12. Lead by example.
One of the best ways to spread the word about veganism is simply by living your life in accordance with your values. When people see that you can be healthy and happy without consuming animal products, they may be more inclined to reconsider their own diets.
Talking about veganism doesn’t have to be awkward or uncomfortable—but it will be if you go into every conversation feeling like you have something to prove. So relax, educate yourself, pick your battles, and lead by example instead. By following these tips, you’ll be sure to have respectful (and potentially even productive) conversations about this lifestyle choice that means so much to you.
Long time vegan living in upstate NY. Web developer and founder of Vegan ShowOff. She's addicted to ice cream and loves hiking, snowboarding, gardening, and travel. Read more from Nicole!