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How to talk about the vaccine without it becoming a fight

Discussing the COVID-19 vaccine can be a contentious topic with family and friends. Here are five pieces of advice from a psychologist on how to broach the issue.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Nearly every day, discussions are happening about the COVID-19 vaccine. One peek in a comments section on social media or attend one family gathering, and we’ve all seen how divided people can get over their thoughts on the vaccine.

So how do you discuss vaccines or getting vaccinated without it becoming a fight?

That’s the question we posed to Dr. Blazen Draguljic, a psychologist with Baptist Health in Jacksonville. He had five pieces of advice if you are going to try and discuss vaccinations with a friend or family member.

1) Do it in person 

If you are trying to tackle a difficult subject, doing it in person is always the best option.  

"The tone that we are trying to relay, the information doesn’t really come across online or through text message and things will get assumed and misinterpreted and then you lose your ability to bring your point across in a respectful and cool, calm and collected way," Draguljic said. 

So, resist arguing in the comment section of a social media post or over text message.

2) Understand from the onset that you may not be able to change their opinion, and be OK with that

It is unlikely that either person will walk away from the conversation with a completely changed opinion. So don't make that the goal. Make the goal simply presenting your argument in a calm and well informed manner. Keeping that goal in mind should help with No. 3.

3) Don't lose your temper

Keep your emotions in check, and don't let the discussion devolve into a shouting match.

4) Let the other person talk, and try to understand where they are coming from 

"Let the other person know, I am here to listen to you. I am here to hear you out," Draguljic said.. 

Do your best to not interrupt the other person when they are speaking, because that can lead to frustration and tempers flaring. Instead, save the points you want to make for when the other person is finished.

5) Understand when to stop

"When you feel like those emotions are coming on, it is very important to say, 'Hey we are not getting anywhere with this. It sounds like we are not hearing each other out. Let’s take a break and come back,'" Draguljic said. 

He said it can be beneficial to put the conversation on the back burner for a few minutes or even a few hours before revisiting, which can give both sides time to get their emotions back in check. 

Also, how do you cut through misinformation if that is what your friend or family member is basing their beliefs on? Draguljic said it is important to recognize what the other person is saying. Don't necessarily try to fight their sources, but have credible data ready yourself to present as well.

He said in the end, remind them that you are having this discussion not to fight, but because you care about their health and well being.

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