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  • Writer's pictureRobert Norton

Facts might not change minds, but conversations can

Updated: Aug 16, 2021

Facts might not change minds, but conversations can. Striking up the vaccination conversation can be awkward, but it's worth it if compassionate caring can help others broaden someone's view.

Here is a framework to help guide you through the conversation.

Ask outright, but in a conversational way. Ugh, the news has me tied up in knots these days. But I have to admit, I find the vaccination debate fascinating. Where have you landed? Did you decide to get vaccinated?

If they have not, ask them what led them to that decision. Be genuinely curious. I'm curious. What scares you the most? The answers may be more complex than you think.

Simply share your personal story. It might sound something like:

"Yep, I can see why you would be hesitant.

Personally, I decided to get vaccinated because when I read about it, I could see that by the numbers, the risk of complications from Covid far outweigh the risks of complications from the vaccine.

But what really settled my decision was hearing a local Infectious Disease physician talk about how clinical trials work. I learned about the rigor in how vaccines are tested. And I learned that the key factor for the Covid-19 vaccine moving through clinical trials as quickly as it did was that people were so eager to enroll in this one. That was reassuring. Like anyone would, I was worried steps may have been skipped.

To be honest, I was most nervous about having my daughter vaccinated, but watching the delta variant, it's impossible for me to be on the fence. I signed her up for her vaccine on the Monday after her 12th birthday.

I know I'm no expert, but I've done a good bit of reading and I’m happy to share a few resources if you want.”

Share reputable medical, academic, or scientific sources. Avoiding news articles can help sidestep any potential political divide. Also, familiar local sources may instill trust as well. Share vaccine information from your local health system or a university in your region. For example, here’s an article from UAB-Birmingham with many good insights from Paul Goepfert, M.D., director of the Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic, a researcher who has spent the last 30 years studying vaccines. 3 Things to Know

Prepare to hear some wild things. There is some strange misinformation out there right now. When you hear it, stay neutral. It might sound like:

I haven’t seen anything like that in what I’ve read. I have to say, that doesn't feel right to me based on what I've learned. Here's my opinion, for what it's worth.

Stop short of shaming. There may be no human emotion more acutely uncomfortable than shame. When we feel it, we tend to retreat to our comfort zone and close ourselves off to new information. If we want to broaden someone's view, we have to avoid triggering shame. I found this opinion piece about how to redirect our covid anger and fight the understandable urge to shame and blame particularly insightful.

Keep your cool. As Haruki Murakami wisely said, “Always remember that to argue and win, is to break down the reality of the person you are arguing against. It is painful to lose your reality, so be kind, even if you are right." If the conversation gets heated, it may be time to take a break and come back for another round at a later time.

Know when to call it. There are a lot of scared people on the fence, but there are also some folks who aren’t budging. As informed community members, we can be a resource to the vaccine hesitant. For those who aren’t interested in a compassionate conversation, you have a different decision to make about how you want to interact with them.

In our community, getting personally involved in emotionally charged issues takes courage. But with genuine curiosity and an open heart, you can begin a dialogue that can make a real difference.


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