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COVID-19 vaccine conversations.

They’ve become the new dinner table topic where families say, “We don’t talk about that.” But for those of us with friends and family who still have questions about or are resistant to the vaccine, having an empathetic conversation can be an incredibly effective way to bypass the heated public debate and purely appeal to someone you care about.

We know it’s not easy. But by listening and staying judgment-free with these simple tips, you may find the start of a dialogue that helps your loved ones think differently about getting vaccinated.

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Start from a place of care.

This isn’t about winning the argument. In fact, it shouldn’t be an argument at all. This is about beginning a dialogue with someone who really matters to you. Start by talking about how much you care for them, and how much you respect them. Make it a conversation above all else. For example: “I’m not here to lecture. I’m not here to tell you you’re wrong. I just care about you, and I want to know where you're coming from. If you’re open, I’d love to talk about it.”

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Listen to their concerns with empathy.

Sometimes just listening can be a really powerful tool. While the COVID-19 vaccines have been proven safe and effective, it’s normal for people to have questions about them. This is especially true for how much information (and misinformation) has spread around about these vaccines specifically.

So take a moment and listen. Don’t roll your eyes. Don’t shake your head. Really try to hear and understand what it is that’s holding them up – even if you may not agree.

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Use open-ended questions to explore further.

The more you can get someone talking beyond “yes” or “no,” the more you can get to the root of their concerns.

Asking open-ended questions can do just that. They can help you understand what your friend or family member is worried about, where they learned any troubling information, and what they’ve done to get their questions answered. Try to treat it like a journalistic interview – getting the most information you can while continuing to let them feel heard.

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Ask permission to share information.

Once you start to understand their landscape of concerns, ask if you can provide some information that has impacted you – and tell them where you get information you trust. If they agree, they will be far more willing to listen, versus feeling like you’re pushing unwanted information on them. 

Speak from the heart, and speak from your own experience (as opposed to telling them what they should believe). For example: If they’re concerned about vaccine side effects, perhaps tell them about information you learned from your own conversations with your doctor or pharmacist.

Sharing quick, accurate answers to a willing ear can sometimes go a long way towards alleviating concerns.

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Help them find their own reasons through shared values.

Ultimately, everyone has their own reasons to make the choice to get vaccinated. Speaking about your own reasons (ideally ones they can relate to) can help shift the conversation from “Why not” to get vaccinated, to “Why.”

If you land a reason that resonates with them, explore it more with open-ended questions. As much as possible, try to get them thinking about the positive results that can come from vaccination – which can lessen the severity of the concerns in their mind.

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Help make their vaccination happen.

You may not get to this point, and that’s ok. Just having the conversation is a huge step forward.

But once a person does become open to getting vaccinated, it’s incredibly important to help them see it through. Offer to help make an appointment. Offer to go with them for support. Offer to help with transportation, or childcare. Above all, offer your appreciation as a friend or loved one.

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