Advice for Week Two from Psychologist, Clare Mann

By Psychologist, Clare Mann Bsc, MSc, MA, PD Dip Couns, Reg Psych. CPsychol

Clare is a psychologist, bestselling author and co-founder of The Animal Effect Communication Platform.

Clare’s advice for day eight: 
Whether you chose the 30-Day Vegan Challenge for dietary reasons or ethical ones (or a combination), you soon realise the ubiquitous nature of animal use in our society. Sometimes, you will be unable to eat anything at some restaurants and only cow’s milk may be served in certain cafes. You suddenly see animals on dinner plates, where previously you saw meat. Where once you saw a leather sofa, shoes or handbags, you suddenly see an animal’s skin. A moment comes when you think, ‘Am I seeing something everyone else can’t?’ Can’t they see the ‘Speciesism’ i.e. Human superiority over animals that surely have right to equal consideration to live their lives for their own sakes, not being used for us? Strong emotions can accompany these realisations and, in an effort to deal with the sense of injustice, farming methods, indifference or being lied to about the health-giving properties of certain foods, you might start to become angry with other people. Anger is a normal emotion that highlights that something you value is being violated. It is important at these moments of strong emotion not to hit out at people who, like you, once didn’t know about this. Instead, surround yourself with other vegans and talk about your reactions and how they experience being vegan in a non-vegan world.

TIP: Allow yourself to feel strong emotions and accept that they are a normal reaction to finding out about a form of human blindness called Speciesism. Learn to redirect these strong emotions positively by talking to your mentor, other vegans and gather as much information to develop a language to talk about what you have discovered.

Clare’s advice for day nine: 
What do you say when someone says ‘What was it that affected you so much that you changed your diet? Irrespective of the reason, there is a danger that the other person will get defensive if they feel judged for doing what you have chosen not to. You don’t want to end up playing verbal table tennis with each of you defending your points of view. A simple technique avoids a ‘you and them’ exchange. Example: A friend says, ‘It’s ok to drink milk isn’t it because if you keep milking a cow, they keep producing milk?’ A truthful response might be the following: ‘Really? Calves are taken away from their mothers so we can have their milk? It sickens me to see people drinking milk now, knowing that they are causing so much anguish for mother and baby!’ However, your comment would most likely be meet a strong aggressive or defensive reaction, especially if the other person drinks milk and doesn’t even know about the reality of dairy farming. If they feel criticised, they might even defend milk drinking because they feel embarrassed, when with a different approach they might admit that they too are alarmed now that you have told them the truth. If a person feels personally attacked, their reaction might have more to do with them thinking you are rude to criticise them, rather than allowing them to stay with the uncomfortable emotion of learning about cruelty to cows. Instead, the use of the word ‘we’, includes the other person and avoids judgement. For example: Friend: ‘It’s ok to drink milk isn’t it because if you keep milking a cow, they keep producing milk?’ Your answer: ‘There was a time when I thought that too. However, I then learnt that calves are taken away from their mothers so we can take their milk. I felt outraged that WE are not told this and it has a negative effect on OUR health and how we are unwittingly collude with animal cruelty. Did you know about this or is this new to you too?’

TIP: Use the word ‘WE’. E.g. ‘We have been duped’, rather than using words that imply ‘I found out and therefore people who continue to do XYZ are wrong!’ By focusing on the industries behind food production or the information that has been kept from us, you partner with other people about what to do next, rather than coming over as superior because ‘You have seen the light and changed and they haven’t’.

Clare’s advice for day ten:  
What do you say when your parents or friends say ‘But this is our culture and tradition. We always eat this at this time of year!’ Food plays a large part of defining a culture and other people obtain a sense of belonging from shared eating behaviours with friends and family. Potential conflict occurs because your family/friend feel rejected or judged when you say the traditional way of eating is no longer acceptable to you. The best way to influence anyone to change (either to not criticise you or change themselves) is to become an attractive example for them to follow. Separate the culture/family experience of belonging and celebration from the actual foods chosen at this time. Say something like ‘I love to come home at this time of year sharing time with everyone. Recently I found out some information about how our food is produced and it had such a powerful influence on me that I no longer eat food that comes from animals. This has nothing to do with my love of spending time with you. It does mean that I don’t eat animal products any more. Please don’t interpret this as a rejection of you and the importance of our culture. I would love to sit down with you and share with you what I know so you can understand more. Can we make a time to do this?’

TIP: Tell your family or friends that you value them and the time you spend with them. Not eating in a traditional way has nothing to do with your commitment to them. Ask them to make some time to hear about why you have chosen to do this so they can understand more (not that they will become a vegan). As much as you might like them to become vegan too, telling them that you want them to change before they hear the facts may make them resistant and therefore not as open to the information they need to potentially change themselves. Hopefully they will see your improved levels of health, wellbeing and communication and want to be like that too.

Clare’s advice for day eleven:  
Today we will discuss the power of making a contract with other people when discussing veganism. You will probably find it easier to explain to some people rather than others why you are on the 30-Day Vegan Challenge. You may anticipate strong resistance or denial of the facts from some people and find yourself tongue-tied, anxious or angry with people who don’t take your choice so seriously. With these people, you may end up debating the pros and cons of veganism and because you are relatively new on your journey, you probably have insufficient information, which makes expressing your point quite difficult. A great way to counter strong resistance is to ask permission from them to share confronting information. Example: A friend says ‘What is it makes you think it’s preferable not to eat meat?’ Good Response: ‘I would love to tell you but some of the information I will share may seem almost unbelievable or very upsetting. Is it ok if I tell you?’ By getting the other person to agree to be told, you can always refer back to this if they later become defensive or angry. If they do you can calmly say, ‘You know, this is why I asked if I could tell you because the information is indeed awful’. By reminding them that they agreed to be told, their resistance is reduced. They can’t blame you for telling them unpleasant information because you gave them the choice. It subtly encourages them to feel their emotions related to the information rather than ‘shooting the messenger’ for telling them.

TIP: A strong reaction to your vegan choice can be partly due to the difficult emotions and reactions a person feels when they hear about the truth of where our food comes from. Ask the other person for permission to share difficult information and remind them that they agreed to it if they become angry or resistant. Don’t do this in a critical way but gently remind them that they agreed and that it is understandable to have strong reactions. You too had such a strong reaction that you changed your diet and lifestyle. Without actually saying it aloud, you are encouraging them to attend to what you are telling them rather than them deflecting the strong emotion by focusing on your audacity at telling them.

Clare’s advice for day twelve:  
Today I want to teach you an important communication technique which can be used generally as well as when talking about veganism. It can be used when you have told someone something that they find difficult to accept. For example, you may have told someone how milk is produced and they resist it. Instead of providing more evidence in the hope that soon they will suddenly get it, ask questions instead. For example, in response to comments like ‘Surely milk isn’t produced like that!’ ask questions like, ‘What is your understanding of how milk is produced?’ or ‘What do you think about what I have told you?’ These questions provide them with the opportunity to explore their own thoughts and emotions more fully rather than struggling with resisting their emotions (in respect to what you have told them). This simple technique is part of effective listening. It also clarifies any misunderstanding of what we think people are reacting to, instead you give them the opportunity to say more of why they are reacting as they are.

TIP: Encourage people to defend their reactions to what you are saying rather than providing them with more and more information in the hope that they will suddenly ‘get it’. Do this by asking them questions to explore their reactions and transmute their strong emotions, rather than antagonising them with more information, which ends up with them ‘shooting the messenger’.

Clare’s advice for day thirteen:  
Today I want to talk about The Continuum of Awareness and how it can provide you with a useful tool to understand people’s responses to veganism. Whatever the reason for you choosing the 30-Day Vegan Challenge, you will find it challenging when people criticise, ridicule or undermine your choices. If your choice is primarily to improve your health, people will ask ‘Where do you get your protein?’ or ‘What about Vitamin B12?’ If your choice is ethically based and you abhor animal cruelty, then you will be faced with questions like ‘Surely the government would never allow it?’ or ‘We have evolved to eat meat haven’t we?’ How do you respond to these questions, especially when they press a button within you and you feel annoyed or frustrated that they can’t see what you see? Don’t think you have to convert the world to veganism or think that by telling them everything you know about the health benefits and politics of veganism, they’ll suddenly join you or else they are heartless, unfeeling people. The reality is that people are at different stages of being able to hear your message (this is the case for many things, not just veganism). Your job is to increase their awareness over time until they come to a tipping point and feel more uncomfortable holding on to their own beliefs and behaviours than changing them. Imagine a continuum, which extends from Extreme Defensiveness/Criticism of Veganism at one end and Total Awareness/Adoption of Ethical Vegan values at the other – with lots of stages in-between. When you talk to someone, imagine they are somewhere on the continuum. Your job is to move them along the continuum towards increased awareness. You don’t have to do this in one go, nor are you the only person or experience they will have that has the potential to improve that awareness. So when anyone asks you a question, answer with the intention of nudging them along.

TIP: In any conversation about veganism, use the Continuum of Awareness to ascertain whether you have increased someone’s awareness or decreased it. Aim to increase it. You do this by providing information without criticism or judgement of them or by how you live your life. When you do this, you are doing your job well.

Clare’s advice for day fourteen:  
Today I want to demonstrate the power of the mind is and how this knowledge can directly influence your life. Professor Bruce Lipton in his book The Biology of Belief tells a story of a doctor who diagnosed a patient with a terminal illness and advised that he had only a few months to live. The patient died a few months later but an autopsy revealed no evidence of the condition. The doctor was greatly alarmed and realised the power of the patient’s belief in bringing about his death. An enormous amount of research exists of how a person’s beliefs about their health influences their physical condition, particularly if they trust the source (or see the person as an authority figure). Imagine the things we’re told about what is good for us e.g. that we can only get protein from certain sources or that dairy milk is the only source of calcium. Each of us is subject to varying levels of conditioning over our lifetimes. Becoming a vegan will challenge beliefs that many people don’t even know they have. Evidence of this is apparent from resistance or criticism a vegan often receives from non-vegans whose views are challenged merely by the fact you have chosen to do something different. There is overwhelming evidence that a vegan diet is preferable to a non-vegan diet on so many levels and yet the conditioning everyone has received influences people to reject the evidence. With this knowledge of how powerful beliefs are in creating physical outcomes, you must STOP an erroneous belief before it takes hold. How do you do this? If you have any doubts or concerns so far on the Challenge, take direct action NOW. Reach out to the vegan community online or post a direct question to us. We can provide you with sound information from our own skill base or experience that the vegan diet will overwhelmingly have a positive impact on your physical health. Don’t allow doubts to grow that have been planted by people who would prefer you don’t become vegan.

TIP: Don’t allow your mind to slip into any negativity regarding the positive benefits of veganism. The Vegan 30-Day Challenge is here to support you at every step. Direct any questions or concerns to your mentor and STAY POSITIVE. Choose to believe ‘without a shadow of a doubt’ that your health is improving more and more as each day passes. The evidence for the positive benefits of veganism is very sound. Ensure your mind fully digests this reality and supports you all the way.

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