Why Did You Go Vegan?

It is curious what people are curious about.

*****

Being vegan, although becoming more and more mainstream, is still seen as weird or odd by some people.

Vegans are used to fielding inquiries and navigating polite (but usually insincere) conversations about their life choices. It is something to talk about at a party. We get it.

One question that has a tendency to rub me the wrong way, though, is the one that is asked the most: “Why did you go vegan in the first place?”

It is a legitimate question if you are close friends with a vegan and genuinely interested. I would like you to consider, however, that for most everyone else, I think it might be impolite prying.

Choosing a vegan lifestyle is almost always a moral, ethical, spiritual, or personal health choice. Morality, ethics, spirituality, and personal health are typically not topics we broach with strangers or acquaintances.

You probably do not ask people, “Why did you become Christian in the first place?” Or, “Why do you love your children?” Or, “So, why are you a Jew?” Or, “Why are you fat?”

Like nearly all vegans I know, I am happy to talk about being vegan with people who are genuinely interested or considering a lifestyle change for themselves. For people just trying to keep a conversation going or filling dead space with idle chatter… maybe just ask what kind of music I like or where I am from.

Remember, your vegan friends are still people. Being vegan is a fundamentally life-changing moral and ethical choice, not a fashion statement. If you would not want someone prying into your personal choices, consider not prying into theirs. After all, I do not know many vegans who are bold enough to start a conversation with, “So, why did you choose to murder and then eat the dead flesh of animals and wear their skin as clothes?”

 

Share

Ears, Hands, or Brains?

Today’s Lesson: What type of conversation are you having? Listening, Fixing, or Advising?

*****

I see problems and solutions everywhere I look. When you spend years as a trainer, leader, or coach, you train yourself to quickly identify holes in the game and think through possible solutions.

Most of the time this is a strength but it can also backfire. Sometimes people share problems with me, because they want someone to listen. They are not seeking my advice or any solution. They just want to vent. Sometimes I just want to vent with no expectation of resolving something. I understand where they are coming from.

Still, when most conversations in your life are centered around providing answers or advice, it becomes incredibly difficult to know when someone only wants to be heard (and to listen while withholding advice).

I thought this was one of my personal challenges until today. I was in a meeting where two other peers and I were offering several solutions to an issue a coworker just shared. One of my peers said to the frustrated coworker, “I bet you are upset because you just wanted to be heard but you offered a problem to us three and we can’t help but try to solve it! It’s the hero complex. We want to come to the rescue. My wife has the same issue with me.”

“Yes!” she exclaimed, “Exactly. Maybe I need to tell you before we start a conversation if I want you to listen with your ears, hands, or brains.”

I love that. It would be so helpful if, when starting a conversation, the person speaking simply prompted, “Ears”–indicating all I want you to do is listen. Or, “Hands”–I’m not looking for conversation, I just want you to fix this. Or “Brains”–will you think through this with me and offer your advice or thoughts about it?

Ears, Hands, or Brains. What kind of conversation are we having?

Share

Listen Long

Today’s Lesson: Be generous with your ears.

*****

I am always surprised by the amount of time and attention my boss gives to his team members. He is a very busy and ambitious successful business owner, yet he seems to overflow with patience and curiosity. When I sit with him, I can not help but be aware of how much our chit-chat is costing him.

While we share stories about our weekend or our thoughts on leadership, I can almost hear a clock ticking in my head because I know I am keeping him from dealing with people or issues that affect the multi-million dollar enterprise he is responsible for running.

Yet, I always appreciate his graciousness and generosity with his time. I value it and I always walk away having learned something. As a leader, I think I have usually been good with giving my best people my time but I have also been guilty of cutting a conversation short so I could complete an assignment on time (or because the conversation had become circular).

I am reminded that a leader’s time is more valuable to his or her team than nearly anything else. Sometimes the greatest thing you can do as a leader is to just sit and talk with people (and spend more time listening than speaking).

 

Share

The Story of Bominicious

Today’s Lesson: Listening closely and not being afraid to ask questions is a responsibility on both sides of a conversation.

*****

This is a great story to make a point about effective teamwork, leadership, or just being courageous enough to speak up and ask questions.

I first heard this story on a television sitcom from the 80’s called, “Designing Women.” I tried to find a link to the video but was unable (if somebody knows it or finds it, please send me a message with the link). I do not remember exactly how the original version of the story went. I have adapted it over the years and it usually comes out sounding something like this:

 

In the early 1900’s, a widowed Southern Belle hired a handyman to fix odds and ends around her big colonial home. As she was not prone to chit-chatting with her hired help (she felt it was beneath her social status to fraternize with staff), she did not converse with the young man outside of pleasantries and having learned his odd name. The man said, “Call me Bominicious”.

Bominicious turned out to be, in fact, the best handyman she had ever seen, and he remained in her employ until the day she died, more than 40 years later. Over that time, of course, the Belle warmed up to Bominicious and by the time she was ready to meet her maker, they were the best of friends.

Sitting beside her deathbed, Bominicious held the Belle’s hand as they reminisced. Eventually, there was a friendly silence between them. After a minute, the Belle spoke up.

“Bominicious,” she said. “You have been such a great friend and employee all these years. You know, there is something I have always wondered but never stirred up the courage to ask. Maybe I am too proper, being an ol’ Southern Belle, but I did not want to impose on your private affairs.”

“Ma’am,” Bominicious said. “I know you’re my employer but you’re also my dearest, best friend. Ask whatever you like.”

“Okay, then,” she said. “Bominicious… why did your parents name you ‘Bominicious’?”

Bominicious was quiet for a moment, obviously trying to muster the right words. “Well…,” he said delicately, “That’s the thing. You remember the day we met all those years ago, when I applied to be your handyman?”

“Of course,” she said.

“Well, that day you asked me what my name was. I said my name is Tony but you can call me BY… MY… INITIALS.”

 

Never be afraid to ask a follow-up question or think you are too good to talk to the hired help!

Share

Don’t Have A Nice Day!

I am trying to stop ending conversations with “Have a… (nice day, happy holiday, good night, etc.)”.

I think there is a subtle implication in the language there; it’s almost like a threat. When someone says, “Have a nice day” to me, I feel compelled to say, “…Or what?”

I know no one means it as a threat. I am being a bit facetious, but  I think it is worth the effort to be more conscious with language. Ending conversations or messages with “have a great day!” is an excessive and mostly pointless social ritual. In truth, I probably do not care if the person has a nice rest of their day. It is likely I will not give it another thought once we part ways. Good for them if their day is nice but I probably will not speak to them for the remainder of the day so it will not make much difference to me overall.

“Have a nice day” is rarely presented as a wish or a good intention. It is a command. We do not say, “I wish for you a nice day”. Although, I do find slightly more palatable the phrase, “Hope you have a nice day”–at least, that is not a demand.

I also like the alternative of simply not using it. If my having a nice day is irrelevant to someone, I hope they do not say it just to say it. I would rather they simply say, “Good bye” with a warm smile (or at least a polite one!).

What do you think? Do you have language pet peeves and alternatives you prefer?

Until next time… I wish for you a… nah, I don’t really care.

 

Share