Talking to Non-Vegans


My name is Sam Iles and I am a passionate vegan and I’m delighted to be able to guest post on! I want to talk to you about talking to non-vegans. It’s one of the most effective things you can do for veganism. In the word’s of Martin Luther King: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

I agree with him, but talking to non-vegans can be hard. We’re often accused of being preachy and thinking we’re better than everyone else, which for most vegans just isn’t true. We want to help people, but in our passion we often come across as judgmental.

I think that the best way to talk to non-vegans is utilizing something that sales and marketing people use a lot (probably without you even knowing it): the Socratic Method. This technique, developed by Socrates, is a form of debate that aims to stimulate critical thinking in your ‘opponent’ by asking them questions. This really works well with the veganism debate.

For example, when someone asks you why you’re vegan you have two options. You can launch into a seven hour lecture telling them how terrible they are and why they must become vegan right now. Or, you can simply ask them “Well, why DO you eat meat?” Suddenly, they’re confronted with a question that they’ve probably never thought about before. They take a few seconds and say something like “Well, it’s great for your health”. Us vegans know this is wrong. You can then politely and shortly explain that it actually isn’t better for your heath and they will then ask: “Why is meat bad for you?”

If you keep going like this, inspiring questions in them and answering politely without being patronizing, you won’t seem preachy or arrogant: they leave feeling like they’ve been helped by you. Your ultimate goal might be to get them to be vegan, but you’re not going to do that in a single conversation. If you simply teach someone a little and clear up some of their misconceptions so that the next time they meet a vegan they can have a longer discussion with them and move one step closer to veganism then that surely that is a fantastic victory.

I hope you find this useful: please comment and maybe check out my blog or my Twitter

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  1. James Kimbell

    July 25, 2010

    Hey, Sam. I recently saw an interesting video on the topic of how to present the vegan “message”:

    The speaker is saying – and I think he's right – that on a practical level, we can do a lot of good by showing people that their desires can already be met by vegan choices. That they don't have to change or reduce their desires. This is good because one of the big objections people have is that veganism is noble but too limiting.

    Anyway, good post. I hope to see more of your stuff here in the future.

  2. Sam Iles

    July 25, 2010

    Yeah, he makes a great point. I think the key is to just answer honestly, make people see how easy veganism is and don't get angry!

  3. My Corrie

    July 26, 2010

    …AND if they do get anger its time to make a mental note about intolerance and ignorance!

    Great POST! Some people I'm afraid will never “get it” but having a plan off attack or “canned message” can make your life easier!

    I look forward to your future posts!

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