Did you recently become a vegan? Just joined a new company and going out to lunch with your mostly non-vegan coworkers? It can be the most daunting task to tell others that you have joined millions in the world of plant-based goodies, cruelty-free heaven. It's true. It takes good, effective communication skills to honor your principles without judging or harming another person, especially as a minority in this imperfect world.
Here are some tips to be diplomatic, if you choose to. :)
1. Be honest. Remember the very reason you became a vegan. Your deep respect for life. Environment. Animals. Your health. Be true to yourself. You don't need to memorize all kinds of latest nutrition studies and facts to explain to people if they ask why. Sharing your genuine feelings will allow them to connect, empathize, and accept.
2. Be assertive. Be firm about your beliefs. Don't let anyone let you down! Although 80% of restaurants serve veg*n options, there are a few exceptions. If a restaurant doesn't serve vegan food, ask for a special off-menu item that they can cook for you - (This has never failed me yet!). Better yet, research beforehand and suggest veg*n restaurants when your friends and coworkers go out to a meal.
3. Learn to cook. Let's face it. Everybody loves good food. Invest in good cooking books and/or learn new recipes online. If your friends and family only knew that vegan food taste so great, they might shift their perspectives of their own food choices. Bring some of your amazing vegan cookies and dishes to family potlucks and company events.
4. Be respectful of others. Do not judge, attack, or accuse others. Utilize "I" statements and avoid "You" statements. For example, instead of saying "You're..." say "I feel..." Always remember that you were once a non-vegan before yourself. Although most people would like to do the right thing, they may not have your experience or understanding to put it in action, based on their own circumstances.
5. Encourage & Celebrate every step toward veg*nism. If others are interested in improving their health, or environment, or animal welfare, great! But, they may be not be at the same place where you are. They might say, "I'm almost a vegetarian, but I eat chicken and fish," or "I can never give up dairy, I just love ice cream too much," etc. In these cases, encourage them for every little step in their way toward becoming a veg*n. Understand that they want to share and connect, instead of separating them from you (i.e. Avoid you vs. I mentality).
6. Set a positive example. Blow myths of vegans not having enough protein by setting your own positive example. I guarantee, it is much harder to accuse of vegans of being malnourished, etc. when you are the healthiest person at the office, or among your friends. Further, invite your friends, family, and coworkers to a wonderful vegan meal (See #3).
7. Appreciate their consideration. When others do show signs of consideration, appreciate them sincerely. When they ask what you eat and what you don't eat, be specific, at the same time, be thankful for their consideration. For example, if your friend is cooking a dinner for you and ask what is acceptable, offer your help or offer to bring another dish.
8. Be prepared. Always be prepared for the worst. Don't expect everyone to accommodate. For example, when going to family Thanksgiving dinners or wedding receptions, try to eat a little before you go, and ask if it's okay to bring a dish. This way you can be satisfied, and will avoid surprises (i.e. to see there's nothing you can eat). When going to company lunches, try to check out the menus of the nearby restaurants and offer suggestions. If the restaurants don't serve anything that suits you, politely ask the waiter/waitress if they can make anything special for you. (This has never failed me!) If company prepares lunches and they are no vegan options, bring your own lunch & politely ask the organizer if there can be some accommodations in the future.
9. Share what it means to be vegan. Not everyone knows what cruelty-free means. Not everyone knows what dairy-free, animal-free, egg-free diet means. Share with others what it means appropriately, when they ask what's vegan. I personally think that it is better that you share the fact that you are vegan with others, just so that it brings more awareness in people as well as avoid any misunderstanding.
10. ...Smile! Smile shows confidence, and it will draw people to you. Also, never say sorry for your stance on veganism. Some people may attack your beliefs, but they never mean to attack you personally. Do defend your beliefs but try not to be too defensive. Understand that some people may just want to argue endlessly to defend their beliefs. In these situations, be calm, speak from your heart, and be truthful.
"The vegan lifestyle is an ongoing progression. Everyone should go at their own pace and remember that all steps towards veganism are positive. It is most important to focus on avoiding the products for which animals are bred and slaughtered. Animal by-products will exist as long as there is a demand for primary meat and dairy products. When it comes to avoiding items that contain small amounts of byproducts, vegans must decide for themselves where to draw the line. Some vegans will adjust their level of abstinence according to the circumstances. For example, as a consumer, you might make sure the bread you buy is not made with whey; but as a dinner guest, you may accept bread without asking to see the ingredients. These types of compromises can actually hasten the spread of veganism, in that they help counter the attitude that it's very hard to be vegan."