Your guide to awkward conversations by Jordan Collins

Jordan is Animal Aid’s Supporter Engagement Officer.

Once your friends and family hear about the decision you’ve made to try veganism, they will have questions. It’s only natural, especially if they don’t know anybody else who is vegan. Try not to be annoyed if you have to answer the same question multiple times at gatherings. If anything, their interest shows that they’re curious about veganism and invested in your life. That said, there are a few ways you can keep these conversations respectful and calm.

First of all, be gentle with the people around you. Forgive ignorance – after all, you didn’t always know everything you know now! Answer any questions you can and try your hardest to make conversations positive. Instead of focusing on the reasons you’re trying veganism (animal suffering, for example), talk about what you’re getting out of it: the exciting foods you’ve tried, people you’ve met, cool facts you’ve learned, how you’ve been experimenting in the kitchen, et cetera. This keeps people from getting defensive and prevents arguments, and it also presents veganism as an opportunity for fun.

These conversations are easier if you have a bit of knowledge up your sleeve, so brushing up beforehand with interesting books like Melanie Joy’s ‘Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows’ can be helpful. That said, you don’t have to come prepared with facts and figures – you’re there to have fun with friends and family, and that should be the focus of your interaction, not getting in another fact about veganism.

Regardless of the way you frame the conversation, there may be someone who is determined to argue. They may feel attacked, may know someone in the animal agriculture industry or may just have a differing opinion. Gently make it clear that there is no need for an argument, and that you don’t want to risk the special relationship that you share by talking about these topics. The goal is to preserve relationships and if the topic is becoming divisive, try to shift the conversation onto something else. The same goes if you recognise that you are becoming upset: steer the conversation in a different direction. Remind one another why your relationship matters, and that your veganism should not affect it.

It’s not always possible to avoid difficult conversations, and in fact you may one day want to tackle the topic with someone you care about, but the key points to keep in mind are to stay calm and to respect the other person’s feelings and your own.