One of the biggest struggles that the earth-friendly babe faces is broaching those topics that she is passionate about with people at the opposite end of the spectrum. Maybe it’s that coworker who brings fast food into the office every day for lunch. Or the uncle who keeps buying cars that get fewer and fewer miles to the gallon. These are often situations where we wish we could speak up, but often we don’t know how and fear the judgment and conflict that we suspect might ensue.
Today we’re looking at how to have these important conversations in moments where the opportunity arises. See, it’s easy to enclose ourselves in a safe little bubble with peers who echo our own thoughts and ideas. Especially with more and more of our social lives becoming digitalized, making it easy to connect (or disconnect) at the touch of a button. But the reality is that this is a very synthetic social interaction. In real life, we encounter people from all walks of life, and it’s important to remember that these encounters are both incredibly worthwhile and also essential vessels for change. What good is it preaching to the converted? It feels nice to be supported by those who see eye-to-eye, but if you believe in something strongly that you want the world to know about, you’ve got to get out there and communicate with the world at large.
While saving the whales (or whatever other animal/habitat floats your boat instead) might be your priority, the stark reality is that it isn’t for many others. It’s not that everyone else is a bad person; it’s almost always simply a lack of education. The mass media makes out that the world is full of terrible people, but that truly isn’t the case. Most people simply want a happy and healthy life for themselves and their families. That’s why you’ve got to start approaching these encounters from a place of compassion. Not everyone was raised in a metropolitan city or with vegetarian parents. Unless we have that seed planted, there’s no reason for us ever to stray from the path we find ourselves on.
That seed can be planted in a variety of ways. It could be a documentary you watch, a news article that lays down the staggering truths, or a book that shocks you into changing your ways. Or, it could be a conversation had with a friendly face. Today you have an opportunity to learn how to be that friendly face.
The goal of having these important conversations is simply to plant that seed. Change doesn’t happen overnight and you must remind yourself that while you won’t see instantaneous results, you may well be able to completely reroute that person’s life to one that is more environmentally-conscious. So, are you ready? Do you want to know the secret? Keep reading.
Firstly, make the connection. Any memorable, uplifting conversation is as such because you made a connection. There’s something indescribably heartwarming about seeing a little bit of yourself in another human. It’s the antidote to loneliness, and it sparks that basal longing for community that lies deep within each of us. Even if you’re there thinking, “oh my GOD, Kat, there’s NO WAY we have ANYTHING in common!” I encourage you to look deeper. Great places to start are: vacation spots, sports, pets, movies, and books.
Next, smile and relax your body language. If you’re not well-practiced at this, it’ll feel a little strange. Inviting body language is having your legs and arms open. Think shavasana. It’s natural to want to cross your arms and legs (something we do to protect ourselves, which we often feel like we need to do when someone is of an opposing view to us!) but this only makes the other person feel closed off. Force yourself to relax and open up and it’s amazing how much it warms the conversation.
Ask questions. Be interested in the other person. It’s sad, but you might well be the only person who truly listens to them that day. Give them the space to express themselves about whatever it is that they’re talking about and their heart will be thanking you for it before their brain has even realized that they think you’re kinda all right.
Plant the seed. Now’s the time for that sweet little seed to be planted. He or she is relaxed, appreciative of the time you’re giving them to express themselves and thus receptive to new ideas. The tactic you choose could be anything from sharing a news story you just read that ties into something they’ve mentioned, an amazing plant-based recipe that they’ve simply got to try (or the Peaceful Dumpling archive because, you know, *drool*), a blog you feel they’d enjoy, or–depending on the person–an informative book you feel compelled to pass along.
Lead by example. The aim is to have these conversations with all kinds of people; many of which you may well never see again. But this last point is particularly powerful for conversations that have taken place between family or coworkers–people you see regularly. Lead by example. Whether that’s eating plant-based meals or driving an electric car, using a reusable coffee cup or buying your groceries loose from a bulk store; remember that we are influenced by those we spend our time with. Whether people are consciously changing or not, it’s amazing what a change in surroundings will do. I once opened up the fridge in work to find several cartons of almond milk. Turns out, a few coworkers decided after trying mine that they preferred the taste to dairy!
So you see, really it’s the art of reading people. Master the skill and it will carry you further than you could have imagined in your work and person life. Use these tricks for discussing environmental concerns and you’re well on the way to changing the world for the better.
Have you got any tips or tricks for these having these tough conversations that matter most? How do you inspire others?
Also by Kat: Ugh! Air Pollution Hurts Mental Health. How To Protect Yourself Without Moving
Related: 7 New Reasons to Go Vegan & How to Talk About It
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