College is a time for people to get really involved in something they’re passionate about, whether it’s a Free Tibet, vegetarianism, their college political party of choice, or something else entirely. However, what starts out as a well-intentioned passion for social change can quickly take a nosedive into the realm of irritating (and alienating) everyone around you. Here are some tips to prevent that from happening and, hopefully, encourage others to listen to you.
Don’t get confrontational: This is the particular problem of newly-converted vegetarians (especially if they came to it via PETA). There is nothing wrong with not eating meat (or only buying fair trade, or campaigning for a candidate), but there is something wrong with being rude to people who disagree with you. If, to use the vegetarian example, you rag on your friends every time they sit down with a dining hall steak, they will grow to hate you. However, if they simply begin to notice that you don’t eat meat and ask about it, it can be the opening for a great conversation about why you’ve made the switch. You don’t want your defining feature to be your cause, because that alienates people who don’t initially agree with you. You want to be “Tim, my lab partner who uses Linux and doesn’t eat meat,” and not, “Tim, that asshole who glares at me when I grab a burger.” There’s a difference.