Slip past their defences

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In this issue:

  • Welcome!
  • Slip past their defences!
  • New site! New look!
  • Get your shirts while you can!
  • Thanks!


Hello again! How was your Valentine’s Day? If you’re reading this in Ontario, happy Family Day as well – it’s a holiday here, for those of us who don’t publish vegan blog networks, anyway, but Angela and I are taking advantage of the relative quiet to catch up on a few things – apparently we’ve got a baby on the way in a (very!) few months, so there’s lots to get done!

This week we get to welcome new subscribers Lindsay, Jo, Karen, Tatiana, Leigh, Lyndsey, Sam, and Maggie! If you’re new or even if you’ve been around for a while, I welcome your feedback and suggestions – you can use our handy contact form and it’ll get right to me.

Slip past their defences!

I’ve been meaning to talk about this one for a long time – it started with some correspondence with a ‘Better subscriber, and a lot of you have asked for tips on how to better communicate with meat eaters, so this is going to be a fun one.

When you’re at a party and a meat eater asks you why you’re vegan, let’s face it: most of the time, they don’t really care. OK, that’s maybe a little harsh, but the fact is that before they’ve even asked the question, they’ve reinforced their internal defences so that even if you give a really good reason, and it might look like they’re paying attention, it’s going into the mental garbage can as soon as it’s received.

If only there was a way to sneak past this defensive barrier and really get our points across… Oh wait, I have one!

So way back in January, we talked a bit about the whole “plants feel pain” thing (you can read about that here if you missed it or need a refresher,) and reader Chris wrote in with this gem:

“…when people say stuff like that to me, I do my best to look mean and reply, “I didn’t go vegan because I love animals. I did it because I hate plants. KILL ‘EM ALL!!!” Then I brutally stab some spinach, just to watch it die.”

OK, first of all, that’s pretty funny, and second of all, I think that can really work.

Here’s why.

As humans we’re really, really good at filtering and anticipating. Think about it – there are a zillion things going on around you (to say nothing of the buzzing inside your head,) and yet your brain is able to function and do the right things faster than you can even think (or at least faster than you think you can think. Do you think you can think faster about thinking if you think you think fast? OK, I’m done, sorry.)

One of the ways that this works is that you subconsciously filter out most of the noise, and you also expect certain things to happen in a certain order. That joke Chris pulled (OK, maybe it wasn’t a joke, maybe he really hates spinach) is an example of something that most people’s brains wouldn’t anticipate, so it creates a kind of short circuit, and for a second, the other person has to recalculate and kind of reboot parts of their head, for lack of a better explanation.

On its own, it’s a fun little joke that throws people for a loop, but it gets better: it turns out that there’s a remarkable window of opportunity in that split second of recalculation.

Researchers have proven that during this tiny window, you magically become a lot more believable. It’s like the cynical, doubting, fact checking part of the brain gets deactivated during this reboot cycle, and that’s where you have an opportunity to get your real message across with more authority than you’d usually have.

OK, so there are two parts to this formula: first you have to trigger the reset, and then you’ve got to deliver your message.

For the reset, you really just need to do something unexpected. While you could probably bark like a dog, that’s also going to confuse your listener, so I’d recommend doing something in congruency with the question being asked. I really like humour in these situations, and here’s why:

The sad fact is, when most people think of vegans and vegetarians, they think about angry protesters, or maybe hippies. Possibly angry hippies. In any event, choosing to reduce animal suffering is serious, serious business. As they start the conversation, they’ve got certain expectations of how you’re going to respond, and a well-placed joke is the last thing they’re expecting. Their defences simply aren’t tuned to deflect it.

Don’t make the joke at your expense or in a way that’ll trivialize your choices. Something like Chris’ “plant hating” one is a good example of something we can all laugh about together.

Once you’ve triggered the reset, you’ve got a very small window to deliver your real message. Make it short but powerful! The longer you ramble on, the more the other person will able to rebuild his or her resistance. Something like “OK, seriously it just came down to not wanting anyone to suffer just so I could have a meal,” or anything along those lines would work.

The best you’re going to get out of this in most cases is a “huh, I didn’t think of that” kind of response. Most of the reaction will probably be around the joke part of the message, but don’t get discouraged – all you’re really doing here is planting a seed in a social situation while minimizing any antagonism you might have otherwise experienced. The conversation will probably shift to other things, and that’s the best thing that can happen right then.

There are variants of this technique in various fields of psychology and influence, but for the purposes of communicating with meat eaters in a social setting, I’m calling this the “the heist” because all this talk about resetting security systems makes me think of the planning session you see in a really good heist movie. I hope it works for you!

New site! New look!

OK, things on the Better Network of veg-themed websites are really starting to move, and over the next few weeks I’ll be announcing a ton of new sites and features!

First of all, Taste Better had a bit of a facelift last week. I’m still working on it, but I think this makes things easier to read and it’s the start of making all of our sites follow some basic consistency so you know how to get around.

Mixed with that was a shifting of some of the content. Our long-neglected vegan business features have now moved to a brand new site, Vegan Friendly Ventures. We’ll be interviewing more entrepreneurs over the coming months, but for now you can check out the newest article which interviews the owner of North America’s first vegan organic lunch truck, which started serving customers yesterday!

Oh, and speaking of new looks, we’re planning a change to this newsletter format next week, so expect something a lot pretter and easier to read next Monday!

Get your shirts while you can!

I’ll elaborate on this next week, but we’ve started moving furniture around in preparation for our first child! This means I’ll be changing my office into a bedroom, and moving my desk into our walk-in closet – it’s not ideal, but luckily I’m able to work in libraries and coffee shops most days.

What it also means is that we’re losing a lot of storage space, so we need to make some changes to our vegan t-shirt store. I simply don’t have room to keep all the styles handy!

Starting March 1, we’ll be selling just one style a month and putting the rest in storage. I haven’t decided which one it’ll be yet, so if you want a particular design, you need to buy it right away or it might be six months before you have another chance! Like I’ve said many times, we’re not going to make any more, so if we run out of a size, you’ve missed your chance there too.

We’ll stick with the free shipping for now, but I might change that on March 1 too with the new “shirt of the month” store. It might be too cold for t-shirts right now, but don’t let your lack of planning today keep you from wearing the shirt you want to wear in May!

Click here to get your shirts while you still can!


Thanks again for reading these ideas, providing your feedback, giving me suggestions for new articles, and joining me in our weekly office hours sessions. Trust me, I learn as much out of these things as you do!

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