It’s holiday time. From Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s, there may be multiple occasions when you find yourself in social situations around people who don’t follow a vegan or plant-based lifestyle. Having some mental preparation for such times can help to diffuse potentially uncomfortable situations.
Every situation is different, but here are some general tips for navigating social engagements, in particular discussing veganism while sharing a meal with non-vegans.
1. Think of the big picture
Firstly, there are plenty of people out there who are open to change and the vegan lifestyle, so don’t get too frustrated if you happen to be temporarily surrounded by people who are resistant to it. Meals aren’t always the best place to have deep discussions about the ethical or health aspects of food.
That being said, you may be asked about your food choices. If that’s the case, just keep your answers as brief, yet as polite as possible. If people are genuinely interested they can pursue the questioning further, maybe after the meal or when you’re away from other company. You could always pass on your email address to them as well, in case they would like to find out more.
Just remember, even if no one at that particular gathering is the least bit supportive of a vegan life, there are plenty of others out there who are. So, don’t get discouraged.
2. Be patient
Not everyone will change 100 percent and become vegan overnight. Don’t expect them to. Be patient with others who seem interested in the vegan lifestyle. Giving people space and the opportunity to initiate the changes themselves is often the best thing you can do.
If people seem interested in learning more, especially if they are people close to you (family, etc), make sure to provide support, but also give them the space they need to take gradual steps. The small steps they make now can pave the wave for greater change further down the road, so let them find what motivates them most to make those changes to their lifestyle.
When people make change themselves, they feel empowered. When they are told what to do they can feel belittled. So respect people and give them the opportunity to alter their behaviour of their own volition. Without feeling pressured, they’re more likely to stick with the lifestyle as it will mean something to them.
The less animals consumed in the long run, the better for everyone. So, give others time to make changes and figure out the way that is best for them to make permanent change they will stick with.
3. Focus on commonality
You likely share some similarities with those around you, find them and focus on those aspects, rather than fixating solely on your differences. Maybe you can relate over work, other hobbies, or current events. Start with things or interests you have in common and work out from there. Keep the conversation on topics you can all relate and contribute to.
4. Be approachable
However, people will often have questions, so be open to answering them as best you can. As much as possible be responsive and give the person a positive experience.
If they approach the subject of veganism and inquire about the lifestyle, particularly if they pursue the questioning, they are probably asking because they are truly interested.
But take it slow, only share what you think will benefit them the most where they’re at. You don’t need to load them up and overwhelm them with information on the first day. They can always search out and find more info as they go along.
The best way you can help is by giving them some tips that helped you. After all, we’re all in this together, so let them know that. And, let them know you’re available to help however you can.
5. Take responsibility
Take responsibility for your own happiness. Don’t let your happiness depend upon other people changing their behaviour. Instead, set the example you want to see others follow. Act in a way that you want to see reflected in the world. Don’t make your happiness depend on the actions of others, for only you control your own happiness.
Doing the best you can to have a positive, compassionate effect on the planet is the best example that you can set for others. And if you’re helping others while living authentically, you’ll be happier for it.
6. Be Prepared
As far as food goes, be prepared. Take your own food if possible, as for a potluck, or eat before going if need be. If you do take your own food, be sure to take enough to share with others as well. People will often want to try out your dish, probably because it just looks so darn good.
If dinner is to be served by others, just stick with what you know or feel comfortable eating. Many restaurants and people are often happy to accommodate you if you ask for some simple baked potatoes, steamed vegetables, or the like.
As for the company, you may want to have some prepared responses to frequently asked health questions or resources to direct people to, especially if doing so ahead of time will put you more at ease. The less you know the people you will be socialising with, the more you may want to be prepared. So, prepare as much, or as little, as you feel comfortable with.
Most of all, just relax and enjoy yourself.
It’s probably only a few hours of your life, so don’t let certain discomforts keep you from having a nice time and enjoying some good conversation with others. Focus on the company, and not as much on the food (going prepared can help tremendously with this).
Find some vegan recipes to share: