I don’t know what to do when people say they want to become vegan but aren’t ready

When we’re speaking with someone who is showing interest in veganism but says they’re not ready to stop eating animals just yet, it can be tempting to try to persuade them to become vegan right away:

But conversations like this can make people defensive and less open to changing their behavior.

It’s actually more effective to let people be the expert on what’s true and possible for them and to avoid defining their reality.

Avoid defining people’s reality

We define a person’s reality when we communicate that we know who they are and what’s possible for them better than they do. This is disrespectful, because we’re acting as though we’re the experts on their experience. What’s possible for a person is what feels doable to them—and nobody else can know what that is.

So, when we’re talking about a change in behavior, it’s more respectful and effective to suggest that the person change their behavior as much as possible, rather than dictate what we think is possible for them. We can suggest, for example, that they “be as vegan as possible,” rather than that they “go vegan”:

When we encourage someone to be as vegan as possible, not only do we reduce the chances that they’ll feel defensive, but we also encourage them to regularly reflect on the issue of eating animals. So each time they eat, they’ll reflect on what they’re eating and on how they can reduce their participation in carnism.

Suggest small changes first

As shown in the comic strip above, another effective way to encourage someone to change their behavior is to suggest a small change first.

People are more likely to agree to make a smaller change than a more substantial one. And research has shown that after a person has agreed to make a small change, they’re significantly more likely to agree when you later suggest a bigger change.

To learn more about why suggesting a small change first can be so effective, watch this video.

Other effective approaches to suggesting a change in behavior include making your goal to motivate rather than persuade (which you can learn about in this video) and emphasizing the progress people have already made (which you can learn about in this video).

Other Resources to Check Out

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