Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Building or Burning Bridges

Excerpts from this are in this week's Enewsletter, but I wanted to have its own link, so we could refer to it on its own in the future.

Lauren and I reached 3,400 students at Middle Tennessee State -- the first time more than 3k have been reached in the Tennessee   Lauren had a conversation with a young woman who said she didn't think she could give up meat. Lauren covered how "It doesn't have to be all or nothing."

I had four interactions that started off negative and turned out positive.

One guy said that he didn't want my "propaganda." I asked him why he would refer to it as such. He said it was because of all the graphic images. I told him we're not saying anything sensationalist in all caps or telling people that they're bad individuals; we're just detailing common agricultural practices. We want to be honest with people; we want them to see what animals really endure. He then asked for a booklet, sat down, read it for about ten minutes. When he left, I thanked him for reading it and told him to have a good day.

Later on, a dude named Will walked by and smirked at me when I asked him if he'd like a booklet. I told him to have a good day. About ten minutes later, he walked up to me and told me he was sorry, he shouldn't have responded in the way that he had. He said that he didn't agree with veganism, his wife was an archaeologist and she found such and such from her studies. And he didn't like a certain animal advocacy group that he thought I was with. But he kept saying that he shouldn't have responded in the way he did. I told him it was no problem and that I really appreciated him coming back to say that. We shook hands and parted on good terms.

Another dude said we've been eating meat for centuries and we're not going to change that. I told him there is a certain percentage of individuals willing to consider this message, and that VO's outreach is having an impact on them, and that's all we can worry about at this time. We accept that there are individuals out there that we're unable to change at this point. He heard me out on a bunch of things and ended by saying that eventually, with resource depletion and such, more and more people will be moving towards vegan eating.

Lastly, a young woman walked by and said, "I'm an ag student, and I don't agree with what you're promoting." I told her she had a right to her those views, that it's understandable an ag student wouldn't agree with all the goals of a vegan advocate, but to have a nice day. She walked back a few minutes later to apologize for being rude. We had a really productive conversation for about five minutes, and it ended with us shaking hands, her wishing me luck with my work, and me telling her to have a good day.

I've been guilty many times of responding to rudeness with sarcasm. It's often tough not to. But I continue to see that it doesn't pay off. Our first interactions matter, and they can lead to a bridge forever burned or the very modest beginnings of a long and fruitful discussion. Each person is a potential ally, even though that might not be apparent during our first interaction with them. The goal is to act in a manner that would make a second interaction possible.
—Jon Camp, 9/17/13