While a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation in March showed that the share of Americans who have been vaccinated or want to get it right away is increasing, 17% of Americans still take a wait-and-see approach, 7% plan to do so. . vaccinated only if needed and 13% said they definitely would not get a vaccine.
“I don’t know if I have met someone who has not had any issues around these conversations, because there are at least one or two people in your circle who have differing opinions on how to take care of them. ‘themselves in terms of health in view of the vaccine. Said Akua Boateng, registered psychotherapist in Philadelphia.
Vaccination In general, Boateng and other experts say, is often a high-stakes topic tied to personal beliefs about health, safety and survival. In the case of coronavirus vaccines, political views can also come into play.
“It’s not like discussing the weather,” said Gregory Zimet, a behavior specialist who studies immunization and pediatrics professor in clinical psychology at Indiana University School of Medicine. “Unfortunately, coronavirus vaccines in particular have become and continue to be highly politicized, so conversations about vaccines end up, in a certain sense, conversations about politics, which are often tense and very loaded. and lead to alienation and polarization.
But experts say it’s possible to avoid straining or damaging your close relationships and still having productive conversations about vaccines with family and friends who don’t share your point of view. Here is what they recommend.
Manage your expectations and set limits
It would be a mistake to start a conversation confident that you are going to be able to persuade another person to change their mind, said Paul H. White, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah who studies attitudes and persuasion.
“If you go ahead and say, ‘I’m going to win this argument,’ you can, you can’t,” White said. “And if anything, you risk destroying the relationships you have with your family, your friends, your loved one.”
Zimet agrees, calling the approach “set up for failure.”
“It’s human nature to get on the defensive when your belief system is challenged and attacked,” he said. “People tend to identify with their belief systems, and an attack on your belief systems is a lot like an attack on you.”
While it’s worth the effort to talk to close friends and family members who seem steadfast in their opinions, Zimet said you should lower your expectations and adjust them based on how strong you perceive the situation to be. position of the other person.
It can also be helpful to have “a conversation about having a conversation,” Boateng suggested. “Identify your boundaries around what you feel comfortable talking about and what you don’t,” she said, adding that you can accept to create a non-judgmental space or to determine what you want to do. ‘must be done if the spirits start to flare. This discussion, she said, “sometimes helps people deal with conflicts that might arise. [vaccine] conversation.”
Acknowledge the concerns and determine the reasons behind them
How do you approach the subject, says Zimet. Instead of asking pointed questions such as “Why didn’t you get your vaccine,” you can try sharing your own experience with the vaccine and giving others the opportunity to ask you questions.
If you’re talking to someone who isn’t ready for a shot, it’s important to acknowledge their feelings and let them know they’re not alone, said Sunil Kripalani, professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University. Medical Center which studies communication in health matters. . “It allows you to start with a position of empathy and understanding.”
Tamera Coyne-Beasley, a vaccine researcher who has also been involved in shaping national vaccine policies, said she often strikes up conversations with loved ones emphasizing how confusing and difficult the decision can be.
“I realize that they have received a lot of conflicting information, especially if they are looking on the internet or talking to people who are not familiar with vaccines,” said Coyne-Beasley, vice president and professor of pediatrics and interns. medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “I want to acknowledge their concerns and understand what their problems may be.”
The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases recently released a report detailing various strategies to help communication about covid-19 prevention measures and vaccines, said Coyne-Beasley, a member of the organization’s board of directors. .
“You want to make sure that they understand that your referral is from your care for them and that you have no secondary gain other than prolonging their lives and keeping them and their families healthy because you love and want them to be there, ”she said.
You should also not make assumptions about why a person is reluctant to get a vaccine.
“It’s important to take the time to understand the rationale and the individual’s decision-making process rather than jumping straight to ‘You should do this, and here’s why,’” Kripalani said.
Don’t lecture, shame or threaten
When talking to a relative or friend, avoid becoming a “preacher and moralist,” said Vish Viswanath, professor of health communication at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. “At some point, if they feel that they are not being respected, that they are not listened to, that their concerns are not validated, they will walk away from you.”
Zimet suggested a strategy known as a “motivational interview,” which involves asking if you can share what you know and your point of view.
You can also ask people what would help them feel more confident or increase their interest in getting the vaccine, Kripalani said. “It’s a disarming way to ask questions and it gives you something more positive to discuss, which can help move the conversation forward.” Be prepared to refer your loved ones to sources they trust, such as other family members, religious leaders, community groups, or prominent health officials and organizations.
One of the fastest ways to end a conversation is to shame the other person, White said. “If you want people to get vaccinated and start saying, ‘Well, that’s selfish. You are horrible not to do it, ”their almost natural response. . . is to defend oneself, ”he said.
You should also try to keep yourself in check when meeting a relative or friend who is sharing wrong information, especially if it is in a public forum such as social media. Rather than publicly contradicting or humiliating anyone, Zimet said, try to address issues of misinformation in private conversations.
Experts also discourage use of exclusion threats to persuade people to get vaccinated. Telling someone that they will not be invited to gatherings unless they are vaccinated is damaging to relationships and “is not appropriate for helping someone through a medical decision,” Kripalani said.
Boateng recommended trying to find common ground, for example, by recognizing that everyone wants to stay healthy and safe. Then, she said, work with family and friends to think of other ways to stay connected, like spending time outdoors, wearing masks and staying away, or coordinating Zoom hangouts.
Know when to back down
While conversations about vaccines aren’t likely to be resolved quickly, you need to know when to stop. There are often clear signs, according to experts. Sometimes a person will say that they don’t want to talk anymore. “It would be the nice and easy neon sign,” White said.
Other signals to pay attention to include mood and body language, as well as the direction of the discussion. If spirits start to rise and the conversation turns combative or defensive, it’s time to back down. “The more you try to convince them, the more you strengthen their beliefs,” Viswanath said. “At some point you just want to let them go and wait for the right time.”
It doesn’t mean giving up, Coyne-Beasley said. “You should always leave the door open.”
If, however, you can’t persuade your loved ones to change your mind and you feel distressed, Boateng suggested taking the time to process and seek support from other sources. “You just take care of yourself as you would if you suffered emotional loss and emotional wounds, while affirming the courage it took to navigate taking care of your health and the health of your family,” said she declared.
Finally, avoid making assumptions about how you handled the conversation, White advised, and remember that you can only control half of your relationship. While your loved one might not agree with you, he said, that doesn’t mean you haven’t done your best or that you haven’t done your best.