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Vegan Communication: How to either Damage or Empower the Vegan Movement – Melanie Joy

We need to stop reproducing the toxic perfectionism and the toxic communication of the dominant culture veganism was established you know in order to offset these toxic attitudes and behaviors that are normal in the dominant culture and we can do better thank you how are you I know it’s amazing to be here in a sea of vegans a roomful a large room completely packed with people working to make the world a better place for animals nothing inspires me more so thank you so much and I love having the opportunity to stand up in front of a group of vegans who are often so committed and working so hard to make the world a better place for animals and being able to share good news like how the vegan movement is growing exponentially all over the world which it is the movement is growing all over the world and that’s amazing today I’m actually going to talk about something else that’s growing and it’s growing within the vegan movement and this is a virus of sorts it is a virus that is contagious it is debilitating and it can be potentially even deadly but in this there is also good news because when we recognize this virus then we with awareness of this virus then we’re in a position to prevent it from spreading to reverse its course and ultimately to heal our movement and the virus I’m talking about today is toxic communication among vegans now before I talk about toxic communication and define it what exactly it is I’m going to just show you a few examples can you see this to read yourselves is it people in the back large enough on the screen okay I had a lot of examples to choose from unfortunately and just chose four of them to give you a sense of some of the problems we talking about today and I’m just curious before moving on how many of you have witnessed toxic communication this is vegan TV okay I didn’t even finish the question and all the hands went up like so you know what I’m talking about and this is a really serious problem in the moment in the movement there are countless vegans who have been the target of toxic communication myself included I have in fact talked to vegan after Ving and after vegan some of them who are brilliant leaders brilliant organizational leaders who have shared with me these deeply painful stories of how they were targets of toxic communication some of them actually felt like they couldn’t even continue in their careers as vegans and in fact in my experience and in my observation more vegans or at least a lot of vegans end up leaving the movement not because they can’t stand the width they can’t withstand the pressure of the dominant karna stick culture but because of this sense of betrayal and demoralisation that they feel when they’re attacked by their own people by other vegans how many of you can relate to this or have seen this before felt this yourself this feeling of being betrayed by the people who are supposed to understand the most so this is a serious problem and I’m going to talk now first for a few minutes about what exactly I mean when I refer to toxic communication no toxic communication is any communication that violates our integrity and harms the dignity of others and I’m going to define this for you so integrity is the integration of core moral values such as compassion and justice and practices it’s practicing what we preach we violate our integrity whenever we can eunuch eight in a way that doesn’t reflect compassion and justice makes sense dignity is one sense of intrinsic worth we feel a sense of dignity when we feel that we are fundamentally worthy as beings on this planet when we feel like we’re not less than or less worthy honor on a basic fundamental level than others so we violate another’s dignity whenever we communicate that they are somehow less than particularly when we shame them so when we shame so many we are communicating that they are less worthy than shame is an incredibly toxic emotion in fact it is arguably one of the most if not the most damaging and destructive of all human emotion so I want to talk briefly about this emotion for a minute and I want to start out by differentiating shame and guilt very often people use these terms interchangeably but there is a difference between them does anybody here know what the difference is you want to shout it out what is it what is guilt what’s the definition of guilt so maybe guilt is what you feel and shame is what you think others think about you well it can be that way but that’s not exactly the definition anybody else want to give it a go guilt comes from inside shame comes from outside but we can shame ourselves and other people can cause us to feel guilty actually so the difference is that guilt is how we feel about our behaviors right we feel guilty when we think to ourselves I did something bad shame is how we feel about what exactly ourselves we feel ashamed when we think I am bad so shame is the feeling of being less than and more specifically it’s the shame of being less worthy than and as I said it is one of the dis disruptive and destructive of all human emotions most of us carry around a great deal of shame already because we’ve been born into a deeply dysfunctional profoundly non-relational screwed-up world that shames us on an ongoing basis we have not learned how to relate to one another in a basically compassionate healthy and relational way and so a lot of our communication a lot of our interactions are shaming most of us carry around a lot of shame and most of us understandably are deeply defended against feeling further shame we protect ourselves from being further shamed in a variety of ways and we hide our shame from others and also from ourselves we bury our shame underneath our many successes we hide it within being the best activists the best employee the most beautiful person we can be etc etc we work on hiding our shame from others and ourselves we pretend that we’re not ashamed be cut to ourselves because many of us have learned to feel ashamed of being ashamed I often say that one of the best ways to get somebody to do the opposite of what you want them to do is to shame them shamed people are not people who are thinking about taking Pro or feel capable of taking positive action on behalf of others or themselves or themselves shamed people ourself are in defense mode they are working to prevent being further shamed they wrap themselves in the emotional armor to keep themselves safe shamed people typically withdraw or attack in self-defense so we have this epidemic of shame and this epidemic of shame shaming behaviors and this epidemic of hiding our shame from ourselves and yet many of us continue to use shame believing that it’s actually going to motivate people to change often the opposite is is more likely to happen when people feel shamed studies have shown when people feel that their dig is not being honored they become defensive they exhibit a stress response this means that they’re in kind of quasi fight-or-flight mode sometimes it’s strong sometimes it’s weaker what they do what people do when they’re in defensive mode is they become less rational they have less access to their rationality and they also become less empathic they’re not going to be empathically connected to somebody who’s shaming them and when you think about a lot of communication vegan communication what do you notice communicating to non vegans a lot of our tactics right are shaming and when we communicate with one another a lot of our communication is in fact shaming and this is not only unproductive but it’s deeply profoundly counterproductive shame is also contagious when we shame others we increase the likelihood that they will go out and shame others as well as a way of managing shame one way that people manage feeling less than is looking for others who they can make feel less than they are makes sense so shame is contagious and in fact toxic communication is contagious studies have shown for example that being exposed to just one incident of rude behavior like reading an insulting email can cause people to reproduce this these negative behaviors studies have also shown that for every hurtful interaction we have it takes at least five positive Owen’s to offset the harm done to our mood and the drain done to our energy so this is this is a one to five ratio that’s significant studies all have also shown that people automatically mimicked the facial expressions tone and postures of others as do spectators to the encounter so if somebody is behaving in a toxic way even the people who are on lookers will mimic these facial expressions and behaviors and when we see people making negative or hurtful expressions such as frowning or glaring we actually feel angry or worse ourselves so toxic communication which is the primary expression of toxic toxic communic behaviors is contagious now just imagine the impact of toxic communication when it’s expressed not just one to one but to hundreds or thousands of others as when somebody is on a stage or somebody is posting on Facebook and imagine the increase in this impact when that individual is in a position of leadership or authority so those of us who are in positions of leadership have a responsibility to use our influence to offset rather than reinforce this toxicity it is incredibly important that we are careful with what we are modeling and how we are communicating this toxic communication in our movement is creating an epidemic of suffering and it is doing tremendous harm and damage to vegans to vegan organizations and also to the vegan movement now there have been interesting studies done on toxic behaviors in the workplace and I’m going to share with you some of these findings there are more that I could share but I couldn’t fit them on the slide some of the costs of our toxic communication within a workplace setting so this could be easily extrapolated or applied to a vegan organization and of course to the vegan movement as a whole so these are just some of the results of toxic communication in a workplace setting and I’m not going to read them out you can just read them yourself is any of this familiar to you in some of your work your organization’s your groups your interactions and what’s interesting is that these problems are not only problems that are experienced by the direct recipient of toxic communication but the indirect victims which are the first or second hand witnesses to these toxic communications are also impacted in a similar way so the indirect victims are either people who are on lookers who are actually directly witnessing the interaction or people who somebody who’s been hurt tells later at the end of the day so if you experience this for example with your you know volunteer group and you go home and you tell your partner about it then your partner can also be impacted in a negative way from hearing this studies have also found that just one person who engages in toxic behaviors in a group reduces the group’s performance performance by between thirty and forty percent just think about that number for a moment in a movement that needs all of the energy and all of the resources it can get to address this massive massive global problem of animal harm and suffering studies have found researchers estimated that the financial costs alone of a toxic workplace and a toxic workplace they looked at which they defined as having 15% of employees engaging in toxic interactions if you have a staff of a thousand and 15 percent of them engage in toxic interactions the cost is over two million dollars so let’s think about what some of these numbers might mean if we applied them to a vegan sorry a vegan organization in the vegan movement so let’s assume you know let’s say we’re talking about an organization of a hundred people the cost would be about two hundred thousand dollars in lost productivity let’s say we’re talking about an organization of ten people which is even more common in among vegan organizations the cost in lost productivity would be about twenty thousand dollars and let’s look at what this means in terms of harm to animals when we’re talking about an efficient vegan organization an efficient vegan organization is estimated to be able to spare one animal for every $1 spent so let’s look at the cost to the animals in an efficient vegan organization in an organization or an efficient vegan organization of ten people this is 20,000 animals who were not spared who could have been in a larger organization of a hundred people this would be two hundred thousand animals who were not spared whose lives might otherwise have been now even if these estimates are wildly off even if there are 80% higher than they should be this is twenty percent too many animals then most vegans would ever be comfortable with an imperfect but perhaps useful analogy is to think of farmed animals being in a sinking ship and their main hope of survival is a lifeboat that’s person to buy vegans every toxic communication is like shooting a hole in the bottom of the animals lifeboat this is a problem that we can’t afford to leave unaddressed now I’m gonna actually talk about how to address this what are some specific actions we can take but first I’m going to just briefly talk about what causes what has caused this epidemic of toxic interaction in the first place there are a lot of reasons I’m actually writing about those separately but I’m just going to name a few of the ones that I think are most important to be aware of right now one reason is because most communication today is online and it’s a lot easier to be mean to somebody if you’re not looking them in the eye and we know that so whenever possible a really simple step we can take is to communicate with a person face to face even if it’s a person we only know through Facebook we can ask them to meet us on video chat instead of having a battle that everybody can look on to I’m a battle of comments another reason is because the broader emotional and intellectual climate you know the intellectual and emotional climate of the broader culture has become toxic so toxic communications have become so normal as to be unremarkable I I am constantly surprised at how everyday communication which is so so often so shaming and so harmful is just not even noticeable to so many people so this is a problem that goes beyond the vegan movement of course and the third reason that I’ll mention today is because in many movements and particularly in the vegan movement there are high rates of traumatization we live in the midst of a global atrocity that is carnism a global atrocity is a mass traumatic event and when we are living in the midst of a mass traumatic event it is very difficult if not impossible to become at least somewhat traumatized by this traumatized by the reality of what’s happening in the world that we happen to be aware of and a lot of the graphic imagery that many of us have witnessed many of us in the movement have what’s referred to as stsd secondary traumatic stress disorder how many of you here have heard of stsd I’m just curious I give a talk on it a few years ago so maybe some of you are at that maybe some of you have how many of you know PTSD post-traumatic stress disorder okay so this is like what combat veterans experience sometimes stsd is exactly like PTSD except with one key difference does anyone know what that difference is exactly stsd impacts the witnesses to the violence rather than the direct victims of the violence so many vegans have stsd and I have a chapter in my new book beyond beliefs specifically about this it’s really important to get informed about it because when we are traumatized to a greater or lesser degree this has an impact on our perceptions our feelings and our behaviors and it is one of the drivers of some of the common toxic communication patterns we see in our movement for example we when we have stsd or even some level of traumatization we can develop what I refer to as a trauma narrative in other words we start to look at the world as though it’s one giant traumatic event with only three roles to be played either you’re a victim if you’re not a victim what are you a perpetrator or a hero and the witness is tricky because a witness can also be a victim or a here a perpetrator depending on how they or a hero depending on how they act so it’s victim perpetrator and hero and the more traumatized we get the more we start to view place everyone including ourselves into one of these roles and plays rigid boundaries in between them like you can’t be both you have to be one or the other and the stronger our emotional reaction are to them so we believe if you’re not a hero like if you’re not a hundred percent vegan a hundred percent of the time then you must be what a perpetrator so we we have this kind of like perfectionism that we’ve started to develop and this is in large part in my opinion because of the level of traumatization many of us have have experienced um when I talk to vegans about trauma and I do very often I talk about the problem of over witnessing the problem of like so many vegans who feel an obligation to continue to watch these graphic movies and to look at these graphic images can you relate to this a bit it’s a lot of vegans feel this way and many tight and these these graphic movies are like feeding the trauma if you already know what’s happening in the world you don’t need to keep watching these things they they can reinforce your traumatic response but many vegans say to me I’ve said to me well I feel guilty not watching I feel like you know if I compared to what the animals go through you know the least I can do is to bear witness to them to watch you know two minutes that they’re suffering the animals don’t need a movement of walking trauma survivors the animals need a movement of healthy self connected people who are able to be in this movement for the long haul and not eventually burn out and over witnessing witnessing more than necessary is one of the key contributors to burnout in the movement vegans often say that they’re afraid that if they stop witnessing if they stop watching these graphic videos then they’ll stop caring they’ll stop wanting to fight the good fight now I’ve never in my career seen that happen in fact I’ve seen the opposite more often where vegans become more moment motivated but they’re motivated not from a place of trauma but from a healthier place inside of themselves it can be helpful to think of your trauma as having a survival instinct as being like an entity a living being with a survival instinct that has taken up residence in your heart and in your mind and it wants to stay alive and the way it keeps itself alive is by convincing you to continue feeding it by continuing to take into more traumatic material so I suggest that you consider giving yourself position to let your trauma go and it might be uncomfortable but see what happens for you when you give yourself permission to let your trauma go you significantly reduce the likelihood that you’ll engage in some of these toxic behaviors and communications that we’ve been talking about and you will have a more sustainable life as an activist and as a person now this combination of this toxic broader intellectual and emotional culture and you know online culture and secondary traumatic stress has led to a culture of this kind of moral perfectionism whereby we hold others and ourselves often to impossible standards like one unexamined statement or one selfish choice or statement you know suddenly make someone bad suddenly makes us the enemy we have no wiggle room to screw up we have no wiggle room to not be perfect and this is a very dangerous state for us to be in the movement the ethos today the ethos that’s like the broader backdrop of the vegan movement and beyond in the broader culture in some ways is one in which we not only tolerate but we also celebrate this moral perfectionism and toxic communication we have learned to rally around those who raise the battlecry of moral righteousness and elevate them put them on this pedestal and to believe that it’s alright to abuse others as long as we’re morally outraged when we’re doing it this is a very dangerous attitude for us to be embracing and research has research on anger and on perceptions of people who are angry has actually shown that we are less rational when it comes to assessing the behaviors of people who are perceived as people who are angry we see people who are expressing anger as more believable as more competent and more intelligent than they actually are so I want to talk for a minute about anger and some of you might be thinking but of course were angry we’re supposed to be angry we’re supposed to be morally outraged look what’s happening in the world so I want to differentiate healthy from unhealthy anger for a minute anger is a normal health –fill legitimate emotion that arises as a response to injustice we need our anger our anger is what makes us take a stand against injustice anger becomes unhealthy or problematic when we become blended when it’s anger that we’re blended with and when it has within it the charge of contempt and I’m going to explain both of these concepts so when we’re blended with our anger it means we don’t see any difference between our anger and ourselves we often express it I am angry as the anger and we are one a more accurate way of expressing anger would be I am feeling angry about or even better a part of me is feeling angry about this because it’s usually a part of us that’s feeling angry not a hundred percent of us so when we’re blended with our anger we are looking at the issue we are looking at the world through the eyes of our anger when we are not blended with our anger we’re still able to be connected with our rational selves with our empathy with our compassion even as we feel our healthy anger does that make sense and problematic anger is anger that has the charge of contempt contempt is the emotion it’s judgement plus hate essentially it’s judgment and anger and hate actually together when we feel contempt what this means is that we have placed ourselves and it’s in a position of moral superiority we are perceiving the other or sometimes ourselves we can feel contempt to ourselves as well all of this communication all of what I’m talking about applies to how we treat and communicate with ourselves as well so when we feel contempt we are perceiving another or ourselves as morally in we’re in some way if we assume that our anger unhealthy anger causes us to adopt this problematic assumption if we assume that our anger gives us license not to practice basic human decency toward others then we can end up feeding rather than fixing the very problem that our anger is trying to transform so we need to be careful to develop enough self-awareness so that we can reflect on ourselves when we’re angry and ask ourselves if we are feeling and using our anger productively or destructively because how we use our anger and how we relate to our anger will make all the difference now let me back up for a minute I want to also point out that anger is healthy anger or not to confuse how we express anger with tone policing you guys have heard this expression tone policing before okay so the idea of well so tone policing is basically telling people that they should not be communicating about an issue if they’re feeling strong emotions around it or if they’re expressing strong emotions around it that’s a problem it’s normal natural and necessary and healthy to feel and express our emotions around issues tone policing is not the same as asking somebody to communicate respectfully when they’re feeling angry so I don’t want to mix up these two concepts so I want to talk briefly about moving beyond this perfectionism before we move into how to communicate in a way that is less toxic or not toxic the first step is in our attitudes we need to appreciate that we have inherited a messy world we have been born into an absolute mess of a world and you guys don’t need me to tell you that you’re all very well aware of this no doubt we have to learn to relate to the world the way the world is rather than the that we wish the world were instead of getting angry that it’s raining take out an umbrella when we relate to the world differently we have to make choices in the world that we have inherited that are very different than the choices we would make in an ideal world we have to learn to live with contradictions in our lives because we don’t have any choice even as we hold people accountable even as we work to change problematic attitudes and behaviors we need to have some wiggle room to appreciate that many people are doing the best they can in a very problematic world maybe you’re a vegan and you feed your sick cats meat because they can’t live on vegan food it’s not possible for them that’s a contradiction you may just have to make your peace with and live with it’s not a contradiction you would have to deal with if the world were ideal we wouldn’t have cats living with us probably in the first place so we need to appreciate that number one perfectionism is impossible to achieved everything can be made more perfect everything can be approved improved somehow and we’re living in a situation where perfectionism or even trying to be perfect it is quite difficult and impossible so we need to stop reproducing the toxic perfectionism and the toxic communication of the dominant culture and we can do better the vegan movement veganism was established you know in order to offset these toxic attitudes and behaviors that are normal in the dominant culture our movement was founded on compassion and on justice we are doing better in many ways and we can do better when it comes to this changing our communication patterns so I’m gonna actually talk now I could I originally when I put this presentation together had like 50 tips for preventing toxic communication but we don’t time for 50 tips I do cover effective communication very thoroughly in my new book beyond beliefs but here I’m going to talk about eight tips a key tips in order to prevent the spread of toxic communication the first one is to examine yourself and your own behaviors many people have not everybody but many people have inflated beliefs about how well they treat others and how well they are seen by others particularly examine yourself and how you relate to people based on how much power they have in their relation with relationship with you this is something most of us don’t pay attention to it’s good to become a self observer in this way and notice when somebody has power more power than you do do you tend to treat them with more respect than you treat people with less power than you have if that’s the case then it’s important for you to change the way that you relate across the board and pay attention to the company you keep if you surround yourself with people for whom toxic communication is normal and normalized you’re going to be very likely to slip into this pattern of communication yourself if you’re around people who are more conscious and are not communicating in a toxic way your tolerance for toxic communication will be a lot lower and when you get exposed to it and you notice it you will feel how toxic it actually is you’ll you’ll kind of cleanse yourself of it so then when you’re reexpose to it you’ll feel the toxicity even more and this includes being online be careful how much you expose yourself to online toxic communications so it doesn’t become normalized point to is to become a critical consumer of what you put in your heart and your mind just like you are of what you put in your body and on your body so for example notice the signs of toxic communication and distance yourself from them and don’t use them yourselves for example shouting and this might look like just using all capital letters and multiple execute exclamation points in some time’s just one exclamation point using absolutes okay communicating where you say for example men rather than some men or meat-eaters rather than some meters use sexist language or you know eat animals or or are have negative attitudes toward vegans notice character assaults this is when people conflate a behavior with a character right so for example when somebody says she’s speciesist because she says something speciesist or he’s sexist because he says or does something sexist when you’re born into dominant systems like speciesism and sexism carnism racism you have absorbed all of us have absorbed these systems into our mentality so deeply that we will never probably never be fully free of them what we need to do is to be committed to continuing to our examine ourselves becoming self observers becoming more literate so that we can be practice the values of compassion and justice more fully but if somebody says something sexist that’s that’s normal we can point it out to them we can help raise awareness but as soon as you label a person’s character because of a behavior you really shut down you really decrease the likelihood that that person is going to be open to any other feedback that person will likely feel shamed um hyperbole hyperbole is exaggerated you know making exaggerated claims rather than sticking to the facts so you know saying something like Joe’s malicious statements rather than saying statements that Joe made that I experienced as offensive malicious shows that you know what Joe’s intentions were do you know he was intending to hurt we can’t possibly know that all we can know is what we observe and our perceptions of what we observe defining reality defining reality is like we define other’s reality when we make ourselves experts on the other’s internal experience when we act like we’re mind-readers when we know what somebody else is thinking or feeling or needing or what their motivations are which we can’t possibly know but we define another’s reality it’s fundamentally disrespectful it’s often shaming it often triggers anger in the other person understandably and rightly and it’s a very disconnecting behavior so defining reality is saying something like he doesn’t care about animals he’s just trying to feed his ego and this is said sometimes about vegans who practice veganism in a way that other vegans don’t like oh he doesn’t really care about animals oh that organization doesn’t really want to help animals they just want to make lots of money for themselves how on earth does anybody know that how can any of us know what is inside somebody else’s heart in mind allowing others to be the expert on their own experience is fundamentally respectful and it’s a generosity we all deserve and it’s a relational behavior it creates connection and openness rather than disconnection and and closed mindedness so a couple of more a couple more suggestions avoid any communication that suggests that the other is somehow less than that is shaming this can be kind of difficult especially when it comes to like intellectual or academic critiques I don’t know how many of you noticed this have noticed this but you know often academic critiques or intellectual critiques or communications that you know are very eloquent or use lots of big words are cleverly you know cleverly worded ways of communicating something that’s shaming and that’s toxic so be especially you know wary when you read an intellectual critique that’s criticizing somebody else’s work it may very well be inaccurate criticism and it may also be a criticism that’s done in such a way as to be shaming point three is to create a healthy process when we’re communicating now all communications have these two parts they have a Content and a process when we’re communicating the content is we are communicating about it’s the subject right so the communicate the content of this communication now is communication so the content is what we are talking about and the process is what do you think it’s how right it’s how we are communicating the process matters more than the content you think about your experience of communication over your lives you know think about a communication or a conversation you had maybe last week or last year there is a chance you might not even remember any of the content you don’t remember what you were talking about you probably however remember how you felt in that conversation the process determines how we feel when our process is healthy our goal is mutual understanding communication is what we use simply because we’re not mind reader’s we’re not telepathic even though a lot of us act like we are so our goal is mutual understanding it’s for me to understand your thoughts and feelings and for you to understand my thoughts and feelings that’s our goal when our process is healthy we can talk about just about anything without arguing and when our process is unhealthy we can’t talk about anything without arguing so differences are rarely the problem in our communications differences and differences in the vegan movement it’s our beauty it’s our richness it creates a diversity of opinions that are really important for the kind of work that we’re doing in the world differences are rarely the problem is how we relate to the differences that creates the problem when we have a healthy process we are open to understanding each other’s differences and to communicating about the content in a way that helps raise our awareness and deepen our understanding point four is to protect your boundaries and the boundaries of others so for example we need to hold toxic communicators accountable we need to not be a bystander and not enable them the reason that toxic communication goes viral is because so many bystander allow it to go viral we need to start taking more responsibility particularly on our social media sites you know if you if somebody is posting commentary on your site don’t forward it don’t allow it have a statement that you do not host commentary that is toxic and let people know this and ideally let the person know and then delete it if they don’t stop communicating in a toxic way don’t turn away from it we also need to block toxic communicators if people refuse to engage in a way that is protect productive and we need to avoid ourselves avoid the temptation to read communication that is toxic toxic commentary toxic commentary feeds the ego it feeds the part of us that wants to feel better then it feeds the part of us that doesn’t feel good enough and kind of gets off on reading others being put down it has an addictive pull to it an addictive charge to it and don’t get pulled in by it avoid the temptation to read it because the more you take it in the more it feeds that part of you that will be attracted to rather than turned off by this kind of communication if there are groups that tolerate toxic or encouraged toxic communication you decide whether you want to leave them or not and I encourage you to leave them and if you are a person who organizes meetings or you organize events make sure that those are safe spaces for the people who attend for the people who speak we can do a lot as vegans to create a community that’s safer for other vegans and make a commitment to stay connected to your empathy as long as it feels safe to do this for some people staying connected to their empathy doesn’t feel safe for them in which case it’s probably better not to be communicating but if you feel it’s safe for you to stay connected to your empathy do so empathy is the antidote to judgement and contempt empathy is the antidote to contempt if you notice you’re feeling the charge of contempt pause take a step back and really try to look at the world through that other person’s eyes people have really good reasons for doing what they do even if we don’t agree with them if even if we don’t understand them and remember that it’s ideas rather than people who are in conflict pause before you communicate especially when you’re upset about something and it can be a really good idea to put a sticky note next to your computer to remind you that on the other end of your communication is a living being it’s an individual with feelings and preferences and a life that matters to them just like your life matters to you whenever possible it’s a better idea to speak to somebody privately rather than calling them out publicly in some cases we need to talk about a person’s behaviors publicly even then we can do it in a way that’s not shaming to them but whenever possible try to speak to somebody one-on-one so they don’t feel humiliated by the commentary or by by the feedback that you might give them and don’t assume that having power makes somebody invulnerable to the toxic and debilitating effects of shame I cannot tell you how many people I have spoken to who have a lot of social power some of them who are leaders in the vegan movement and some of them who are very well-known even outside of the movement who have been devastated by things that have been said to and about them don’t assume that just because somebody has power or privilege that this somehow makes them invulnerable to being shamed in fact often the opposite is true people are even feel even more vulnerable to the toxic effects of shame an honor the dignity of others even as you’re holding them accountable even as you’re giving feedback even as you’re disagreeing with an idea we can do this in a way that honors dignity be extremely skeptical of anyone who argues that it ever appropriate to communicate without compassion or respect I have not seen a single study or a single piece of evidence that suggests that this is actually true in fact what I understand and have seen is to the contrary practicing compassion is not weakness or passivity it is strength it takes a lot more courage to be able to hold on to our to our empathy and to practice our compassion in the face of disagreements and in the face of differences than it does to just lash out and fight back and finally it’s important to remember our shared bond this is our shared bond as vegans it’s a bond and it’s a sacred bond that we share and every time we communicate in a toxic way we violate this sacred bond that is so portent to us and so important to our movement and so important to the animals as vegans we carry a heavy burden around with us we have to live with the awareness but every second of every day horrific suffering is happening all around us and that we can work our entire lives to end this suffering and we probably won’t live to see it this is an awareness that the rest of the world is not carrying it’s an awareness that only other vegans understand it is our sacred bond our collective knowing and our collective caring this is this bond that we need to honor so that our movement is the safe and inspirational place that we need it to be to continue working for liberation for many many vegans the world does not feel like a safe space we walk away from our vegan circles and we get teased for caring we get judged and shamed because we believe in practicing the values that other that everybody actually shares we spend our lives often picking up the pieces of the mess that are left behind by others and we never get a single thank you and instead we often get ridiculed or attacked for being who we are and what we do it’s hard enough for us to keep doing what we do it living in this karna stick culture how can we possibly keep doing this work the way we need to do it if we can’t even trust that the other vegans the only other people who see what we see are not on our side and are attacking us too how can we keep doing this work that we need to do we need to feel appreciated everybody needs appreciation to feel inspired and we’re never going to be thanked by the individuals who’s live we are say lives we’re saving they can’t thank us they don’t know who we are they don’t know what we’re doing so we need each other to see we need to be seen by each other because the world doesn’t see us and we need to be appreciated by each other because the victims whose lives were trying to save can’t appreciate it can’t appreciate us and can’t share with us the appreciation we need to know that our efforts matter and they do matter they do matter at the moment we are the primary hope that the animals have and we owe it to them to do our best work for them we owe it to them to be our better selves for them and we owe it to the other vegans around us who need us just like we need them I know that when I was on the receiving end of toxic communication and it was devastating for me and it really hindered my ability to do the work the way that I needed to do my work but I couldn’t I was so consumed I was so hurt by what I was seeing and what I was hearing by the feeling that that my own fellow and sister vegans were communicating with me and with each other this way it wasn’t until I started hearing from the vegans who are most of the movement you know and being thanked and being told that my work does matter and it does make a difference to them that I started to feel more more inspired again we need to be able to do that for each other and I want to kind of wrap this up by by sharing with you my appreciation for you you are the reason the animals will never be able to thank me either you are the reason that I can keep doing what I do you are the reason that I stay inspired you are the reason that I want to get out of bed in the morning and try to work for this movement and work to make the world a better place and you are the reason that the animals hope that they have the hope that they have so I want to thank you for for you for all that you’re doing for what you do for me for what you do for the movement and for what you ultimately do for each other for other vegans so that together we can finally achieve Animal Liberation thank you thank you for taking the time to listen to this talk I have a question for you I’m hoping that you’ll post your comments your answers if you have been the target of toxic communication what has worked for you to help you feel better has it been disengaging entirely from any more interactions has it been communicating directly with the person who had communicated with you in a toxic way or was there something else that you did that you felt helped you to feel better thank you again for watching please give this video a thumbs up and subscribe to the channel.

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