How To Spread Information Without Being Overbearing
So you just recently decided to go vegetarian or vegan and there is so much you want to share with the people around you. Having been a vegetarian for a few years now, I totally understand how much passion one can have for the cause. I came across so much great information that I found it very hard not to change my lifestyle. But it’s important to remember that not everyone has the ability to do that and some simply don’t want to know.
According to the organization Vegan Outreach, in order to effectively communicate our message we must focus on educating people, have informative answers and provide credible documentation to prove this way of life is positive. You want to be constructive and understanding while being patient because we all know it’s not that easy.
Here are a few I have learned in the process that I hope can help you. Hopefully, it will also inspire you to bring positive change to the world around you.
Don’t forget why you are doing it all in the first place; because you love animals and the Earth and have true compassion for all beings. When talking to others, try not to force your opinion on them but share what you have learned in a manner that is comfortable for them.
If using materials such as pamphlets and other handouts, be aware of their readability. In a study done the Faunalytics, results showed that most were written at an 11th grade reading level or higher which can be a problem when the average adult has a 9th or 10th grade reading level. Also work to speak in common language that everyone can understand.
Finally, don’t just tell people to be vegan, tell them why they should do it and how to do it. It is important that you are prepared to share facts and have the ability to answer questions. If you want to convince people your message is more than just an opinion, you need to be able to provide the tools and resources they will need to make the changes you suggest.
Choose Your Words Wisely
Whether you’re speaking to someone or writing a blog or article, it’s smart to choose the right words. You can be passionate without being mean. Don’t put others down or use words your Grandmother wouldn’t want to hear. Stating that someone is stupid or calling them something worse is not going to get you anywhere. Be nice, empathetic and share the facts.
Courtney Dillard, a professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies, suggests that one of the most important ways to communicate effectively is to establish that you have common ground with those whom you wish to persuade. Among other suggestions, she notes that one way to develop common ground is to consciously choose pronouns that establish unity and commonality: “A particular strategic approach to implicit identification involves using key pronouns such as we, our and us to subtly suggest agreement. When I speak of our world being a better place without factory farming, I am assuming shared values.”
Animal Impact author, Caryn Ginsberg, also stresses the importance of understanding the position of the people you are trying to communicate with. She suggests that you need to “put the (vegan) shoe on the other foot.” She suggests a simple exercise—imagine you are being asked to completely change the way your do something, such as being asked to completely stop shopping at any chain stores. Think about your reaction, what you would be defensive about and how you would like to be communicated with about the issue and take those lessons into your interactions with others.
Be Careful Where & When You Share
Wanting others to know more about the cause is an awesome thing. Not everyone is willing to be an advocate. But you must be aware of where and when you lay down the law. Starting up a conversation about factory farming at Thanksgiving dinner is probably not the best time to do it. The same when you are out to dinner with friends and they are cutting into a steak. I am 100% sure they do not want to hear the details.
In a past study by the University of North Carolina, researchers found that people have a “compassion collapse” when learning of mass suffering. This initial feeling creates a numbness so people won’t have to deal with how they really feel. So knowing this, you want to talk with people in an environment where they may be somewhat ready for the disturbing facts of the animal industry, not when they are partaking in the act you are about to shed some light on.
This is very important because you don’t want to upset people or discourage them from learning more about the issue. Wait for a time when you are alone with that person and bring it up by mentioning a new book you’ve read or a documentary you just saw. Lifestyle topics are very personal so they should be treated in that way. A few other ways to spread information on this lifestyle is by wearing shirts that support it, displaying information in public areas and join or start a veg group or society, as suggested by Vegan Outreach.
Be the Change You Want to See
This is a great way to get people interested in the issue. Show them how great your life is now that you’ve become veg. Share recipes, websites, animal friendly shops, exercise tips and more. Cooking a delicious vegetarian/vegan meal for them certainly can’t hurt. I can guarantee it will spark a light in them to make a change as well.
According to Jamie Hecht’s research on lapsed vegetarians and vegans, “social networks have the ability to provide positive encouragement or act as a substantial barrier to veganism.” By creating a positive and supportive environment for friends and family interested in trying a veg lifestyle you remove one potential hurdle for their transition to and maintenance of a cruelty-free lifestyle.
Put your voice out there and be a positive force for the movement. It’s all in how and where you share that makes a difference. If you start with factual constructive information and share your knowledge instead of preaching it, you should have success. For more insight on today’s information, check out the recent Faunalytics paper, Bridging the Gap Between Research and Advocacy. It explores the issues of inaccessible research and how advocates are utilizing what is available.
Starting a blog or a website is a great way to reach more people but just make sure you treat it in a fashion that all can understand so people of all ages can learn from what you created. You can also become a guest blogger or make statements on social networks. Just remember to watch your words, show compassion and be a voice that inspires people to change the world for the better.
Cameron, C. and B. Payne. Escaping Affect: How Motivated Emotion Regulation Creates Insensitivity to Mass Suffering. (2010). https://faunalytics.org/feature-article/escaping-affect-how-motivated-emotion-regulation-creates-insensitivity-to-mass-suffering/
Dillard, Courtney. Strategic Communication for Activists. (2011) Humane Thinking Blog. https://faunalytics.org/strategic-communication-for-animal-activists/
Ginsberg, Caryn. Want To Be A More Effective Advocate? Put the (Vegan) Shoe on the Other Foot. (2011) Humane Thinking Blog. https://faunalytics.org/want-to-be-a-more-effective-advocate-put-the-vegan-shoe-on-the-other-foot/
Glasser, Carol L. Bridging the Gap Between Research and Advocacy. (2011). Working Paper, via Faunalytics. https://faunalytics.org/feature-article/bridging-the-gap-between-research-and-advocacy/
Hecht. Jamie. Veg’n Recidivism: Why is it Happening? (2011). Humane Thinking Blog. https://faunalytics.org/vegn-recidivism-why-is-it-happening/
Faunalytics. Readibility of Vegan Outreach LIterature. (2012). https://faunalytics.org/feature-article/readability-of-vegan-outreach-literature/
Vegan Outreach. Tips for Promoting Veganism. http://www.veganoutreach.org/advocacy/tips.html
Living an eco-friendly and vegetarian lifestyle, Melissa lives in Long Island with her fiance and dog, Olive, who both thrive on a veg diet as well. She works as a freelance designer and writer and also spends her free time sharing advice and tips on her website Revolt. She has written numerous columns for Patch.com on healthy living and DIY design and also shares her design expertise on her blog, The Design Inspirationalist.