How to communicate with unsure people
Even those who may fit the stereotype at first glance may have a lot in their story. Steward, for example, is a Christian pastor living in rural South Carolina who relies on conservatives. But his skepticism was not because of his religion or politics; this is because he is trying to understand the FDA approval process and how the vaccine affects his health.
People are complicated, and their reasons for not getting the vaccine are personal. Respect those reasons and you can have a more productive conversation.
See if the person is open to conversation. Steward admitted that he questioned whether covid was real, whether vaccines really made sense, and whether he had options other than vaccines. But he was always open to conversation. “If I want to make the right decision, I have to hear some opposing points of view,” he said.
Someone in the 14% of Americans who decide they will never get the vaccine may not be open to anything you say. It can be a much better use of your time and energy to simply retreat.
Compassion – or at best civil. Maybe you’re upset with what someone said, or you’re having a hard time understanding. But the person you are trying to talk to will immediately end up with you if you are disrespectful. As I said in an earlier part about dealing with conspiracy theories, slandering or disrespecting someone automatically closes the door to any discussion that may occur.
Identify the obstacle. For many uneducated people, the problem is they are not against vaccines the more they need help getting one. perhaps they are afraid of needles or having a hard time figuring out how to get an appointment. They may have heard about the effects and can’t rest at work if they don’t feel well. Ask if there is anything you can do to ease their burden or help remove an obstacle.
Consider the humble text. As I wrote ago, dealing with people on social media-in Facebook posts, Twitter responses, Instagram comments-doesn’t help and offend others. If you are forced to respond to someone who posts about a vaccine inquiry, choose a more private route, such as texting.
Adapt your reasoning to the person. Much of the messaging around vaccinations involves either instructions (“Get the vaccine now”) or expressed embarrassment (“If you can’t get the vaccine, you’re a bad person”). It may be more effective to use language that reinforces the fact that the vaccination process is in the individual’s own hands.
Daniel Croymans, a doctor of systems at UCLA, recently co-led a study where he found that the “ownership” language helped people with their covid-19 vaccine appointments. Ownership language refers to words that suggest the vaccination is in the person: “Take your dose” or “The vaccine is made available for you,” for example. In the Croymans study, texts with language ownership were more successful in getting seniors with conditions pre-existing in their first shot than texts with a message transmitting information. “If you think you own it, then you’re more likely to value it and appreciate it,” Croymans said.
Croymans says the study emphasizes the importance of creating self-empowering messages rather than embarrassing people who are skeptical of the vaccine. Anyone who wants to help persuade others to get the vaccine can try the same tactic.
When talking to an unrelated person, consider the person’s specific concerns and try to address them in a way that feels relevant. Don’t use jargon or say bad things. Review the concerns shared by the person to show that you are listening, and think about what would reassure you if you felt the same way.