So you’ve just decided to go vegan to help animals. Or maybe you’ve been vegan for a while, and being committed to a cruelty-free lifestyle is nothing new to you. Either way, give yourself a big pat on the back for reducing suffering in this world.
If you’re like me, you might be super-excited to announce your vegan transformation to the world. When I first started leaving animal flesh, dairy products, and eggs off my plate, I was so excited about the change that I dove into every vegan-friendly book, chat forum, and restaurant around. Some of my friends thought it was cool, but there were a handful of people in my life who were strongly against it. They’d say untrue things like, “Humans are meant to eat meat,” or “You know that’s so unhealthy for you, right?”
Basically, not everyone was as excited about it as I was at first, but now my friends fully support my choices. With these quick tips, your friends and family will come around, too:
1. Don’t fight fire with fire. No matter how great a cause is, no one’s going to listen if the person sharing the message comes off as aggressive. Plus, it’s important to keep in mind that while going vegan is more popular than ever, it’s still a new concept to many, and people aren’t always open to change at first. But a little bit of dialogue goes a long way when it comes to opening a person’s heart and mind.
2. Win them over with food. Who doesn’t like free food? One of the easiest ways to get my friends interested in learning more about plant-based food is to have them over for dinner, cook something they couldn’t picture being vegan (e.g., creamy vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, fish-free fillets, Korean “barbecue,” etc.), and wow their taste buds. If you have a party you’re going to or a school event that requires you to bring a dish, use it as an opportunity to show your friends what they’re missing out on.
3. Sometimes you gotta trick ’em. Speaking of winning friends over with food, when I cook for my people, I’ll usually wait to mention that the dish is vegan until after they’ve tried it. This way, they don’t have any preconceived notions and are open to trying new things.
4. Bring your friends with you to new vegan places. Did a vegan joint just open in your town? Ask your friends to join you there for lunch. Again, the quickest way to a person’s heart is through the tummy!
5. Slip things into the convo. Have defensive friends who aren’t very receptive to change? Slip in things like, “I can’t believe what happens to baby cows!” so that it’ll cause them to ask questions. That way, it’ll feel like the conversation is on their terms. If your friend is Christian, you can also use this as a chance to share parts of the Bible that describe the importance of being kind to animals. Celebrities come in handy here, too. The list of vegetarian and vegan celebs keeps growing and growing: Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, Liam Hemsworth, etc. If your friend has a fave star who’s saving animals, it can’t hurt to mention him or her.
6. Remember that you were once in their shoes. A tactic that always works for me is letting people know that I used to eat all kinds of animals, too. I didn’t ever think twice about it, and it wasn’t because I was a bad person. I just didn’t know any better. I like to remind my friends that vegans aren’t striving to be perfect. We’re on a journey like anyone else—always learning about new ways to reduce suffering.
7. Remember that you’re on the right side of history. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how kind or diplomatic your words are—there will always be misinformed people, online trolls, etc. Don’t be discouraged if someone doesn’t agree with you—some people would rather choose ignorance over the truth because they don’t want to be challenged or because they don’t want to admit to themselves that they’re contributing to animal suffering. You don’t need to back down on your beliefs. Instead, use this as another opportunity to show how open you are to conversation and progress.
Remember: Having patience and an open heart is always the key! What about you? Do you have any success stories about talking to your friends about being vegan?