Lisle and Goldhamer, in The Pleasure Trap, write about how to handle when people in our lives get upset because of our plant-based dietary habits. Their claim that people get angry with us only because they are embarrassed (about their own eating habits) rings true to me based on my own experience.
If you choose to make good choices at a church or neighborhood barbecue, for instance, they know that you’re observing THEM make poor choices. They fear losing status with you. Lisle and Goldhamer suggest two ways of dealing with this issue. I believe these suggestions are sound, and they additionally will strengthen your bond with those who would otherwise be upset by your choices. These things are what I already do, and so I add to the authors’ suggestions a bit:
One, “bolster their status” by referring to the things you love about them, unrelated to their dietary choices. This is easy to do and takes the awkwardness out of the situation of your drinking a green smoothie at the baseball game while they’re munching on beef jerky and Goldfish crackers. I also make jokes about it: today at my son’s double header, when a mom asked her son if wanted some snack-stand nachos and Skittles, I said, “Or I’ve got a green smoothie here–you KNOW you want one, so don’t even deny it!” (I’ve made lots of new friends at the ball fields and gotten them to try my green smoothies, only by being funny and casual about it, never by being dogmatic or pushy.)
Two, reassure them that you’re not “perfect” and don’t think you’re better than them because of your “superior discipline.” Just show a little humility.
These authors claim this will ease the awkwardness of social situations that have the potential to make friends feel uncomfortable. I would add, however, since I’ve been doing this for a very long time, that if you utilize these two principles, those same people may also come to you someday for help when they want to change their own lifestyle. That can happen only if you’re loving and gentle.