Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vegan 101: tips for spreading the message

examiner.com - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

By Ed Coffin, Philadelphia Vegan Examiner

Veganism is finally receiving the attention it deserves. Whether or not people agree with it, veganism is quickly becoming one of the most pressing social justice issues of our time. Veganism is appearing everywhere from local restaurant menus to mainstream media coverage.

For those of us who already subscribe to the idea that animals should exist for their own reasons and not be subject to exploitation or interference by humans, we need to begin questioning the productiveness and effectiveness of our efforts.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Am I taking action to influence others?

Do I stay calm when people don't agree?

Is my message clear and consistent?

Do I know what I'm talking about?

Does my message reflect my ethics?

Is my message easy to understand?

Do people generally agree with me?

Do people return to me with additional questions?

Do I know the common rebuttals to my ideas?

Am I friendly and approachable?

If you answered "no" to any of the above questions, you may want to consider how changing your behavior could have a direct impact on the amount of people that adopt your ideas.

People are more willing to follow the ideas of those that they like and trust. Think back to a time when you were in an academic setting. Were you more receptive to professors that you liked or those that you hated? When people don't like you, they're generally not going to like your ideas whether they agree with them or not.

Don't be discouraged if you haven't had successful conversations with others in the past. Everyone has made irrational decisions in the heat of a debate that they regret. Take it as a learning experience. Think about how you can change your tactics in the future to get people to agree with you.

Tips for improving effectiveness of communications with others:

Agree and relate often with the other person.

Become informed in the subject you're discussing.

Use a tone of voice that is not aggressive or condescending.

Try to steer away from abstract, hypothetical questions.

Make sure your appearance does not discredit your opinion.

Recognize when the other person is no longer receptive.

Attempt to incorporate as many personal experiences as possible.

Let the other person express their opinion and listen sincerely.

Try not to use an abundance of unfamiliar terms that they don't understand.

Don't lie or exaggerate if you don't know the answer.

Remember, you can't force someone to understand and agree with you on the first try. Most of the time planting the seed is more important than winning the debate.

If people think about what you have to say and have questions in the future, it's likely that they'll ask you more about it if they feel comfortable approaching you about it.

Unfortunately, despite the media attention and exposure, a vegan world is only going to occur through a grassroots effort. We need to change the way society thinks about animals. The more effective we are at convincing people to reconsider their habits, the sooner we will have a compassionate world.

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