There are oh-so-many reasons why some people might not be jumping to be vaccinated. To name a few: Fear of the government or the medical community. Indifference to the pandemic’s impacts. Misunderstandings about the vaccines. Lack of vaccine availability in their community.
All of these are understandable responses to a complex, politicized situation.
When you embark on a conversation with someone you think may not be excited to be vaccinated, remember that the goal isn’t to coerce – it’s to connect by creating a good conversational environment. Do the things we know help people feel heard and respected, which at its core means active listening. Dedicate the majority of your time to listening and understanding the other person’s perspective.
Start with asking questions to understand.
- “What are you considering regarding getting vaccinated?”
- “What information is important to you for making your decision about the vaccine?”
- “What would need to change for you to be willing to get the vaccine?”
Listen and then listen some more.
Offer support and encouragement. Reflect feelings.
- “I appreciate your honesty.”
- “I can tell you are being thoughtful about this decision.”
- “I see how strongly you feel about this.”
Highlight areas of agreement.
- “I am looking forward to things being more normal too.”
- “We both care about our community.”
- “I agree – the pandemic has been divisive.”
- “I too like to deeply understand decisions about my health.”
Ask more questions. Listen some more. Find more areas of agreement.
When you do these things, usually the other person will eventually get to a place where they are ready to listen to your perspective. It may not happen during the first conversation, and that’s ok too!
When it’s your turn, tell your story in a way that avoids making anyone feel defensive. In this case, perhaps how you first felt fear or hesitancy about the vaccine development or rollout, and then how you overcame those feelings to come to your current understanding. When you share your story, end it by turning the conversation back to the other person and their process. Seek to learn more about what they need and how you can support them.
- “What about you? Have you had any experiences like that?”
- “What does my story bring up for you?”
Often you won’t even have to ask a question because the other person will naturally launch into statements or stories of their own after hearing your story. That’s a great sign! Return to active listening, asking questions, reflecting, and connecting from there.
Before you part ways, connect and strengthen the relationship.
- “I’m so glad we talked.”
- “Can we check in again in a few weeks?”
- “I really care about you.”
Remember, the best decision-making happens when someone is rational, open-minded and feels supported. Strategies like those mentioned above help to facilitate the kind of environment that could allow someone reconsider their ideas.
Go forth and ignite good conversations!
This article was adapted from political persuasion research by Karin Tamerius. Read more about compassionate political persuasion.