In this first part we are going to start with the various reactions you get when you share with others your lifestyle. I will also provide a few tips on dealing with these interactions.
Within this group, we have those who you thought would be supportive but are not, those who completely judge you and outwardly speak their mind, those who challenge you in a bad way and leave you speechless and can’t even deal, and those that get you so worked up you want to throw something at their blinded, naive and small-minded head.
This group consists of those who you thought would be totally unsupportive but they totally surprise you with the amount of love, encouragement and support they give you, those who are especially curious with your lifestyle change and want to learn more, and those who you may even convince to join you on the change.
Then we have those who are unsure of how they feel. Those who are not convinced, are slightly skeptical and worried. Keep in mind all of these categories can be experienced by the same person, as they may go through different stages. For example, once they have calmed down and got a sense of how much hate they were expressing they may simply be just concerned of your well-being. 😛
Regardless of which category they fall in, you will definitely be asked questions, and I mean a lot of them. You will get everything from the basic personal questions such as why did you become vegan, or do you feel any different? To the questions regarding nutrition and how healthy it is, such as where do you get protein and do you get enough? To the questions… or should I say comments, opinions, and their personal thoughts, that may be slightly more challenging to comment or respond to. As a result here are my top tips to deal with these various interactions and reactions you may receive.
- Educate yourself.
If you haven’t done your research prior to or when you became vegan, I highly highly suggest doing as much as you can. First, it is not only important for your own well-being and really understanding and getting a sense of what may or may not work for you, but it will be extremely helpful to answer the many questions you will receive. If you have not read my FAQ: Are all vegans healthy, then please do; basically even within the vegan lifestyle there are varying degrees. People think ‘oh you are vegan, you must be really healthy’, but that is not entirely true. You may be vegan but may be extremely unhealthy.
- Take a deep breathe and stay calm.
Sometimes you just need to learn to bite your tongue and understand that not everyone may be as educated as you on this subject. In the past, and sometimes present, I feel myself slowly start fuming inside because I honestly feel attacked, judged, misunderstood, and hurt. However, we need to remember that although it may seem like they are attacking you personally, they are not. Most people are misinformed. So, just take a deep breathe, slow your heart rate, give them a smile before responding or reacting. Therefore, it is really important to do your research and educate yourself, otherwise how else are you going to respond and educate others.
- Be truthful and honest.
Even with a lot of research, there are some things that you may not be able to answer or provide the most accurate answer. As a result, just say that you are not qualified or cannot provide the most accurate answer. Do not try and just make it up and give false information, instead give them the best answer to the best of your ability. Getting questions is a great way to continue to challenge yourself and to learn more. Keep those questions or topics in mind and when you get a chance, continue to actively do research and ask the tough questions yourself. Additionally it keeps you accountable and can remind you of all the reasons you are living this way in the first place.
- You can’t win them all.
There will be haters that you simply cannot convince and that is okay! The fact that you have introduced them to your lifestyle and planted the seed in their head that perhaps this whole ‘vegan thing’ is not at all what they thought it was, is more than enough. You did your job and shared this lifestyle with someone who may never have come across if it wasn’t for you.
- Be proud and hold your head up high!
Trust me, you will most likely get a huge range of different responses, and sometimes you simply cannot prepare yourself for what some people may say. No matter how the interaction went or what reaction you received, it is a learning experience and you will be even more prepared for next time!
Read Part 2! I discuss more specifically handling social events such as going out with friends and family.