The other WORST thing you can think

June 10, 2010

With this being new baby week here at Staying Vegan, we’re buying ourselves a little time by posting a few revised versions of some past newsletters that we think could use a fresh look (or a first look if you haven’t seen it before, since we don’t have a list of archives available.)  The Staying Vegan Newsletter goes out every Monday afternoon with original content, click here to sign up for your free subscription!

This newsletter originally went out on Dec 28, 2009, as a followup to this one:

Last time, we started on the series “the two worst things you can think” when talking with a meat eater. Part one talked about “you’re wrong,” and how it closes so many mental doors before you even get to the root of the issues that separate you from the person you’re (supposed to be) interacting with.

Before I get into the second “worst thing to think” I want to send a quick thank you to everyone who emailed me with their thoughts – there were a lot of you, but I think I’ve caught up on all the replies! In particular, I want to send a shout out to Sarah, who came scarily close to writing part two for when she wrote this:

“Our choice in diet is so personal that the moment it comes up in conversation people are bound to put themselves on the defense.  I think that’s something of which we, as vegans, need to mindful.  We expect other people to listen to us and consider the reasons behind our lifestyle, yet most of us are hesitant to truly take in what our omnivore friends have to say in response.  Personally, I have to make an effort to keep from jumping to the ‘I’ve heard this all before’ conclusion.  Yes, I have heard many of the same arguments from meat eaters multiple times, but I try to remind myself that I have not had this particular conversation with this particular person before – maybe their main argument is the same as someone else’s, but their specific reasoning is probably a little different.”

Thanks Sarah! “I’ve heard this all before” wasn’t quite where I was going to go with part two, but you’ve raised a lot of interesting ideas that I had to share with everyone else (this is why I love email, I learn so much from all of you!)

We’ll call that “part one and a half,” because I promised part two this time and if we went with part three it’d be out of order and confusing 🙂

For me, the second WORST thing you can think actually extends beyond conversations with meat eaters and goes into talks with other vegans or just about any other interaction you can have. In this case, it hurts you more than it hurts anyone else:

“I already knew that.”

As soon as you think that, you dismiss any possible value that you could ever get from the discussion, reading, viewing, or whatever other form of interaction you might be having. You’ve decided you mastered this topic a long time ago, and your brain has already moved on.

I framed this as the second worst thing you can think in a discussion with a meat eater partly because then I had two parts, but obviously this applies to non-meat based talks as well. I think it’s important in a meat-to-vegan discussion context though, because we tend to hear “health lectures” from people who profess to not knowing anything about nutrition unless it’s your diet 🙂

Just to make sure we’re covered, let’s discuss the meat eater discussion context first and then the broader “anytime you might learn something” area which happens more often.

When a meat eater tells you something that you’ll want to file in the “I already knew that” bin, it’s usually either an excuse as to why they eat meat, or it’s a lecture on a nutrition topic like B12 or iron. You’ve heard all of these before (though sometimes some epic disinformation kicks in like “we have the same blood type as a venus fly trap and need a 13 hour ketosis cycle to maintain our primal zone” or something.)

In both of these cases, you can get into it right then and there, but consider using these as bridges to future discussion if there’s a chance you’ll connect again in the future. Be thankful for the information you’ve received (assuming it’s accurate,) and try to follow up later either by email or when you see the person again with some further facts that boost your position while also informing (hopefully, informing the both of you.) Boom, you’ve just moved from chance discussion to an ongoing dialogue.

In the general case, try not to discount information just because you think you’ve already heard it before. Personally, I try to attend seminars and talks that I’ve already heard a version of just so I can put my mind in a state where I can ask “where else can I take this?” and the inspirations I receive are sometimes really amazing.

So, was any of this new to you? Have you thought of a new direction we can take this concept? I’d love to know what you think, so let us know in the comments!


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