I've never in my life met a vegetarian who was a jerk.
But whenever the subject of vegetarianism comes up--even highly flexible and inclusive versions like CK's Part-Time Vegetarianism--there's usually at least one or two vehement responses from meat-eating readers who presume that some jerk vegetarian wants to take their meat away.
Why is that? I mean, anyone spending five minutes at Casual Kitchen would quickly figure out that we're not vegetarians. We're not a threat to the meat-eating world at all. We're just trying to eat a little healthier and save some dough.
Here's the thing. When a meat-lover responds in an aggressive way to a post on vegetarianism, they expect to be pilloried for their food choices. They think a "reproach" is coming from a pack of tie-dyed vegetarian kooks, so they act accordingly.
That, in a nutshell, is Anticipated Reproach. Essentially, people are expecting missiles to be fired at them, so they fire their biggest missiles first--in a pre-emptive strike to protect themselves.
Anticipated Reproach explains how arguments spontaneously appear out of thin air. All you need is to have one person fire a defensive verbal missile, another person to react, and it's on.
I don't mean to pick on meat-eaters (although admittedly, I'm using them as a rhetorical device in this post). And obviously, the veggie/vegan/meat debate is just one of a million places where you can see anticipated reproach in action. It shows up in all kinds of discussions: in political debates, in debates on taxes and entitlements, in debates on corporate power, about the level of government involvement in our daily lives, and in every other hot-button issue we face as a society today.
It helps explain why otherwise well-behaved people start up insane arguments on Facebook, and why people will waste hours attempting to correct the views of people they don't even know.
And if you think it's only other people who do this, think again. All of us are guilty of anticipated reproach from time to time.
But here's the thing: when you anticipate a reproach that hasn't yet been made... well, you're actually imagining something that doesn't exist. You are making it up. And of course it goes without saying, you haven't furthered the discussion by one millimeter, you've taken it backwards into name-calling and defensiveness.
There's a couple of takeaways here. First, for fellow bloggers: try not to take reader comments personally, particularly the nasty ones. Those comments are almost always about the commenter, not about you. Most likely they are thinking of other times when they've been reproached for their views, and they're simply anticipating still more reproach from you.
Second, don't fall unwittingly into the various anticipated reproach traps. Don't pre-emptively escalate your language. Try to use humor, but avoid sarcastic humor (this is a particularly tough challenge for me). Don't make declarative and pontificatory statements. Instead, ask questions, and try, sincerely, to learn the thought process of the people who don't agree with you. Hey, you never know, you might even learn you were wrong!
Nahhh, probably not. :)
In any event, here at CK, you won't find yourself reproached. Ever. This is my solemn promise to you, dear readers.
I created this blog so that we could all have a "no-reproach zone" to talk about cooking, our diets and the food industry. Yes, you will find your assumptions questioned here, and yes, you'll be challenged here to think differently--sometimes very differently--about things.
But don't anticipate a reproach... because that reproach ain't coming.
Readers! What are your thoughts?
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