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My bosses have known for a long time that I'm vegetarian, and I know that they aren't. I never bring up the subject of vegetarianism. But whenever we eat, they like to repeat hackneyed arguments against vegetarianism that they've already voiced to me.

My polite deflections have failed:

Please, no need to remind me vegetarianism's drawbacks. I think that we already discussed this previously.

I've been holding myself back from blurting out something offensive:

Please stop repeating these drawbacks of vegetarianism that you already voiced to me. This just wastes everyone's time. I'm not swayed.

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As a first disclosure, I’m vegan. As second disclosure, I’ve personally faced situations similar to what you describe. Also, I assume that your bosses are closed to reason and slightly enjoy bothering you with that. I assume this because that is what I've found in my personal case. If my assumption is wrong, this may not be the answer you are looking for.

It seems almost unavoidable to find people with attitudes like that. However, there is a clear line between having a discussion (note, discussion is not a fight, but the exchange of arguments to find productive solutions and get closer to truth) and simply being mean. If what they do is to repeat hackneyed arguments, as you say, then to me it would signify that their purpose is closer to imposition and farther to discussion.

My suggestion is that when people do not want to listen (at least in this specific issue, they may be open to work along in other subjects) your energy is better spend educating yourself, challenging your own assumptions and making better arguments, not arguing back. Do it for you and for the people that do want to listen.

As someone here pointed out, if you already asked clearly to stop pressing the issue and they didn’t, then it’s harassment. If they don’t stop is because they don’t want it to stop. Asking differently may not be the solution. Running away from the problem only incentivize their behavior, something I don't think any vegetarian/vegan would like. If you don’t want to challenge them legally or aggresively and it keeps happening, then you have to get clever. You could mock about the irrationally of their arguments and how idiotic some of them may be, but this may escalate to aggression if done wrong.

What I’ve found (by experience) is that ignoring them altogether often gives them the courage to press further, until you break. What is the best answer for deaf ears then? Silence.

Not a sad/angry silence, just silence. Not a look away/change the subject silence, but a ‘look directly and firmly into their eyes’ silence. Active silence, confident silence. Not a single word until the subject changes.

People is not used to this kind of reaction, nor to be looked in the eyes with impassive persistence. An additional slightly kind smile usually drives them crazy (not impassive, but also effective). They may think you are angry at first, but you are not. They won’t think you are afraid, because you are not.

I hope they change their minds eventually, or that you find a polite way to make them stop. But if they don’t change, and my suggestion does not work either, move on. Challenge legally or leave if you think it won’t work.

Good luck!

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  • Hi. Welcome to Vegetarianism Stack Exchange. Very nice first answer, great suggestion with the active, confident silence :) – Alexander Rossa Aug 3 '18 at 23:43
  • Hi @AlexanderRossa ! Thank you for your kind words. I look forward to learn more in this site. As a last disclosure I must said English is not my first language, I apologize for any potential incoherence :) – user1686 Sep 17 '18 at 6:28
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If you've already asked them to stop, they are harrassing you. You've already tried asking tactfully, so I think you're really asking how to make them stop without being rude or making things worse.

You could try...

  • Telling them how you feel: their comments on your personal choices are making you uncomfortable, or making you feel pushed out of the group/unwelcome.
  • Pointing out that you don't make negative comments about what they're eating because you respect their choices even though you don't agree with them.
  • Explaining calmly why you are a vegetarian in detail if you feel comfortable doing so (this has worked surprisingly well for me several times).

If none of that worked, I would just avoid engaging completely if they bring it up. If they are baiting you, they will probably stop when they realise you aren't going to bite.

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Are they trying to discuss seriously? In this case you could decide whether you can enter on the content-level and tell them that you do or don't want to discuss this over lunch or ask them why they want to discuss it in the first place.

Are they teasing / making mean comments without showing any interest in having a conversation? In this case it's not just about the vegetarianism any more but about human decency, so I'd recommend not appealing to something like 'I don't want to talk about vegetarianism' but rather something along the lines of 'Look, you keep making fun of this and I though it became clear that it is not funny / hurting / ..., so can you please stop bothering me? This is getting very inappropriate.' I'd also recommend having this conversation with a witness so in case you need to complain about them they can testify.

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Just tell them that

What you eat will go into your stomach and not into mine, and vice versa

So you respect their food choice, and your food choice is respected too.

And if you guys are living under the same roof it is little tricky. It is better to eat the food that is comfortable for all, and go outside for eating those that you people don't agree with each other.

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  • Hi. Welcome to Vegetarianism SE. While I understand the point that you are making, I am not sure the second part of your answer is relevant here. The person that asked the question clearly specified that these are his bosses (not guys living under the same roof) and that he already told them he would like them to stay away from this topic. – Alexander Rossa Aug 30 '18 at 23:41

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