Content is adapted from an original publication by the CDC

Conversations about COVID-19 safety measures can be very divisive, especially among family members and friends.  While the science has been clear that mitigation strategies like vaccination and masking are safe and save lives, convincing a loved one to overcome their aversion is often harder and more emotional than merely showing the facts.  Here are some tips from the CDC on how to have these important, but often difficult, talks.

1. Listen with Empathy

This pandemic has been difficult on everyone in one way or another.  Information about COVID-19, the vaccine, and safety guidelines are frequently changing.  Combine that with a bombardment of news and misinformation, and it leads to an information overload.  The best way to combat this is to approach any conversation with empathy.  Identify and acknowledge emotions that come up in conversation before delving into the topic.  Use active listening skills, such as paraphrasing.

Bob: I can’t believe my boss is asking for us to all get vaccinated.  It’s bad enough I have to wear this darn mask all day!

You: It sounds like you are stressed at work, and an uncomfortable mask is another source of stress.  That’s really rough.

2. Use Open-Ended Questions

An open-ended question is any question that requires more than a yes or no answer.  This will give you more information on what the person is thinking, feeling, and how they came to that conclusion.  This is not a time to be judgmental.  Ask earnest questions you would like to know more about, and avoid telling the person they are “wrong” or “silly” for feeling that way.

Bob: Yeah I’m never getting the vaccine.

You: Can you tell me more about why you do not want to get vaccinated?  I would like to understand your point of view on the topic.

3. Ask Permission to Share Information

Everyone likes feeling respected, right?  It may be tempting to show the person you are talking to all of the information and data you have, but doing so without permission will come across as argumentative, and perhaps not be read if presented that way.  Ask the person you are having a discussion with if they would like to see where you go for credible information.  They will likely be more receptive that way.  Remember, you can always find credible information about COVID-19 from the CDC and IDPH .

Bob: I heard that the COVID vaccine has severe side effects, even infertility!  No way I’m taking it.

You: Can you show me where you heard that information?  I’ve been reading about vaccination safety and I have not heard that concern.  I can send you a link with information I read from the FDA if you’re interested

4. Help Them Find Their Own Reason

Whether it is choosing to be vaccinated or adhering to masking and social distancing policies, everyone has their own reasons.  After addressing their concerns with empathy and discussion, flip the conversation from a negative “why not” to some positive “why yes!”.  Remember, their reasons to get vaccinated or COVID safe may be different than yours, and that’s ok!  Help them find a reason that speaks to them on a personal level.

Bob: Ugh, I can’t believe I have to wear a mask in order to go out to eat.

You: Yeah that can be uncomfortable, but remember when all the restaurants were closed?  At least we can go out to eat.

Bob: Yeah that’s true, it’s a step up I suppose.  I still don’t like it.

You: Hey, I heard that the CDC recommendations are looser for those who are fully vaccinated.  How about we get our shots now so we are able to have a few vaccinated friends over for the 4th of July, without the masks?

Bob: Huh… so I can wear my mask less if I get vaccinated?  Okay, that sounds kind of worth it.

5. Help Make it Happen!

It’s easier to agree to something if it’s easy to make happen.  For vaccines, perhaps offer to make the appointment or provide transportation.  Maybe offer other assistance like babysitting or a meal if they are worried about day-of side effects.  For mask-wearing, the easiest way to assist is have extra masks handy.

At the end of the day, most people do try to make health decisions with their own best interest in mind. However, it can get complicated when misinformation leads to conflict, debate and hurt feelings.  With these persuasive tips, you can help your friends and family better understand COVID-19 and make more informed decisions.

Stay Safe, McDonough County