Ok. What I’m about to say isn’t so easy to admit in a public forum, but I’ve got to come clean.
A little backstory: My best friend called me a few weeks ago to tell me that she’s going vegan! I was surprised and thrilled and couldn’t stop smiling from ear to ear. But deep down, I was kind of horrified: I’d never even considered truly talking to her about veganism. Maybe we’d had a few conversations about it over the years, but she asked me point-blank: “Why didn’t you tell me all this was happening?” As she uncovered more of the truth about the stomach-churning ways that farm animals are treated, she couldn’t believe that I’d been so mild mannered about it.
Then I realized: I’ve been underestimating you. All of you. For the last ten years, I’ve been in my own quiet corner over here, being vegan, hoping you’ll notice, but doubting that anyone that I met would actually make the change because of me. I was resigned and cynical that the world around me could ever possibly care about the lives of animals more than they cared about their tastebuds. When I think back on it, I wonder: why did I even go vegan if that’s what I really thought? To pat myself on the back? To feel righteous? In my defense, saving 3,650 animals in ten years is definitely rewarding. But knowing that I could have saved more is something that was really sticking in my craw. Why had I been so silent for so long?
And then I came across the below image depicting a theory called “The Spiral of Silence.”
Awwww…look at me being a sad little dot called “Person with Minority Viewpoint” sliding down the slinky spiral into an abyss of silence. I realized that my entire attitude while communicating about veganism lived in that tiny space called “Perceived Discrepancy.” The most important thing I realized is that the discrepancy is perceived.
No wonder I felt so isolated when talking about veganism! I had created a distance between myself and others. When I think back on conversations where acquaintances asked me about being vegan, I remember feeling impatient with the typical conversation. They’d say “Oh, I really don’t eat that much meat” or “Where do you get your protein?” or “But what’s wrong with eggs?”and I’d sigh. It felt exhausting to respond and explain to the same questions and conversations over and over again. I realize now that I was the one turning it into the same conversation. While the questions are almost always the same, the people asking them are different. The answers apply to them differently. I’d ignored the possibility that I could help someone learn or think about their choices in a new way.
This one realization has led me to completely re-examine how I perceive what’s possible for myself and the people around me. It’s very ordinary to slip into being “reasonable” or “rational” or using “common-sense” when talking with people about a polarizing subject. In reality, these are terms that we use to keep ourselves safe from our fears of failure, rejection, and what we perceive to be utter calamity: WHAT IF THEY DON’T LIKE ME?!?!? But what if we challenged ourselves to push past that point of comfortability? To challenge ourselves to have those “same old conversations” with people in a new way every time they pop up? I’ve been practicing this recently and I am blown away by the results. People listen and care when you do. I’m not advocating for preaching or arguing, but truly connecting with other people on a meaningful level. The object is not to win an argument or even to persuade them to agree, but to share with them who you are and what you care about, and see if they need your help!
Over the years, a few close friends of mine have gone vegan without any persuasion on my part. One of my friends mentioned that seeing me living my normal vegan life helped her to go vegan- knowing that it was possible to be vegan, happy, well-fed, and not a socially-awkward weirdo (except on businessy voicemails…because that is 100% my kryptonite.) It’s made me feel incredibly inspired each time someone shares with me that they’ve decided to go vegan. I’m hoping that now that I can actually talk about it, I’ll see more and more of my friends and family making the change.
So that’s it. Being honest with you has made me feel better! What do you dread talking about? Where in your life do you feel like an outsider? Are you holding on to a perceived discrepancy that may or may not exist? I’d love to know what’s going on with you. I know you’re reading this. Don’t be afraid to speak up!