covid vaccine

Real Talk

In Buzz, September 2021 by Melissa HowsamLeave a Comment

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Top health experts dish tips on talking to your loved ones about the vaccine. 

“People who are vaccinated I know are frustrated and mad right now because they have stepped up and done their part,” said Gov. Roy Cooper in his late July press conference imploring the unvaccinated to roll up their sleeves—and not to wait “until skyrocketing numbers threaten to shut businesses or cancel sports.” The takeaway from Cooper? The way to get our pre-virus normal back is the vaccine. 

To help get us there, he asked “vaccinated people to encourage the unvaccinated now more than ever. Because vaccinated people can be some of our best messengers. … It’s time for us to step up and put this pandemic in the rear-view mirror, and we can‘t do it until we get more people vaccinated.” 

But how to broach that conversation with reluctant loved ones and acquaintances can be daunting— especially those totally put off by the topic. Enter leading experts on human connection, University of Pennsylvania tenured professor and Harvard MD Edward Brodkin and clinical researcher and therapist Ashley Pallathra (and authors of Missing Each Other: How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections, based on cutting-edge neuroscience), who offer tips on how to talk to your loved ones about getting vaccinated. 

“Some people don’t need much convincing— they were the ones who couldn’t wait to get vaccinated, based on the scientific, medical and public health recommendations,” says Dr. Brodkin. “But for those who are ambivalent, the power of connection can make all the difference.” 

Thus, Brodkin and Pallathra offer steps for keeping an open dialogue and connecting with a loved one or colleague who is hesitant to get the vaccine: 

Nonjudgmental listening. “When you’re willing to listen to the other person, you may be surprised to find how much more likely they are to listen to you.” 

Ask permission. “If they give permission, then you can start to dive into some of the science and the facts, now with an audience that’s likely to be more receptive.” 

Elicit their thoughts. “Find out what some of their own motivations for vaccination and preventing illness might be [think: travel, protect a loved one]. … Building their motivation will work better if the ideas come from them, not you, because they know best what is important to them.” 

Be patient. “Realize the other person may not change their mind in one brief conversation— especially if they are very reluctant or worried about vaccination. By maintaining a stance of openness, respect and [understanding], you foster… trust, and they may well be up for revisiting it with you.” 

Use the power of attunement. “Rather than getting caught up in a whirl of stress and anger about the other person’s vaccine hesitancy, try to maintain your own stance of relaxed awareness. Listen to their thoughts and feelings with an effort to understand—and meet them where they are by taking an interest in their own thoughts and their own motivations, instead of immediately imposing your own.”  

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