How do you bring something up without making people feel like they have to protect you (i.e., avoid certain topics in your presence)? D, a frequent zoom participant, raised this question. Here’s my contribution, for what it’s worth: I find a bit of levity often works well. One way to do this is to say, “I’m going to be the super vegan for this next question …”. This can put people at ease. It helps if you are genuinely curious about the response. It’s a lovely thing to truly listen to someone to understand. It’s unlikely they’ll avoid conversations with you if they sense you are truly listening to understand. It’s hard to pass that up.
If you’d like to offer a different (maybe even vegan) perspective, a way to communicate this while maintaining a connection is to say, “I appreciate your response and have a better understanding now. I’m wondering if you’ve considered …”
I also think naming the potential problem can help to address it. For example, you might say something like, “I’d like to ask a question but I’m concerned it will cause you all to clam up around me and I don’t want that to happen because I value your ideas even if I disagree sometimes.” This is simply offering a clear statement so people know they don’t have to protect you from non-vegan sentiments – that you WANT to hear everything.
One criticism of this approach could be that it seems like there’s too much attention and effort given to protecting the non-vegan person’s feelings. While generally speaking the CWAFV framework seeks connection, it’s not meant to do this by being “nice” at the expense of being honest. I actually don’t believe it’s nice to be dishonest and it doesn’t contribute to a world where we can address difficult topics, such as the inherent cruelty of consuming animals. The idea is to create the conditions that allow for ideas to be shared and heard with no judgment; no agenda – just a heartfelt conversation.