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5 Tips on How to Talk to Others about Controversial Subjects

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Now that we have established that herd immunity, at least in the vaccinated sense, is an illusion–how do we talk to people about it? I am just going to give you a quick “don’ts” list first. I think this may be the best way to help you avoid any large mishaps. Some of these you may see many times as you read more of my posts about how to talk with people. They continually seem to creep up in our everyday conversations on difficult topics. They are bad habits we have to break if we are ever going to really get through to people, so it is worth mentioning more than once.

1) DON’T text.

Do not, do not, do not, DO NOT try to have these conversations over text, messenger, IG, Twitter, etc. I KNOW you want to and I KNOW you will. And you will lose.

I understand that this is the main way that we communicate, but it is just not effective for this kind of communication. Anyone can lose in a text message. Even I lose using text messages. The reason why has to do with two major problems with these short-form communication tools.

Reason #1

There is the obvious problem of being able to interpret the written word any way you want. Meaning, there is no implicit tone or body language in writing, like there is when actually speaking with each other in person. So, if the other person is angry, it doesn’t really matter if there are a million heart emojis in your text; suddenly, what you have written is going to seem pompous and belittling. Words can be read in such a different way than you intended and it is extremely difficult to come away clean from that.

We all know this, we have all felt this and have been victims of it. You cannot control how the other person looks at your words, your emojis, or your commas.

Reason #2

The way that these messaging apps or social media platforms are made are not conducive to critical thought. I don’t mean that they have all sorts of fighting and garbage on them to begin with, (although they do) what I mean is when you write using these platforms you often send things much faster than intended without thinking.

Because the text boxes are small, it tells your brain that you need to go fast and not type too much. You are also most often on your phone, so it is difficult to create a long enough and thoughtful enough message. You are often in the middle of doing something else because that’s what phones are for, distraction and multi-tasking. This leads to bad communication on all levels. You just want to write back, right that minute and then you say something stupid and they interpret it even worse and then you lose your friends.

Reason #3

Okay, I know I said there were two, but I realized I should add this about the environment of messaging, especially on social media platforms. This is intuitive, but, social media leads you to want to bash others. It feels good to “truth shame” people and proves that you are right because it literally gives you dopamine hits on multiple levels. Slamming people does literally nothing. I am not saying that we should not educate others on social media, but in all honesty, it is mostly a dumpster fire, that you need to get out of, immediately.

So, what’s the solution to not texting, commenting on social media, or some kind of messenger? As dorky as it sounds, there are two mediums I recommend using if you want to talk about these issues with someone and you cannot do it over the phone or face to face:

Letters and Email.

Dun, dun, DUUUUUN! Whhhaaaat?! You mean, if I want to have a good conversation about controversial issues with someone who is important to me, I have to use archaic forms of communication? I have to pick up a pen? Buy an envelope? Put on a stamp? And dare I say it, lick that disgusting glue?


Whhaaat? How could you do this to me?! I don’t even know which place to write my address let alone theirs!

Okay, enough theatrics. Let’s talk about this. First, you have to understand that to make things truly meaningful, they must be done one on one. That is why a comment doesn’t really work, it is too public. That is part of the reason these strategies are better, they are truly one on one.

Email. “But, Julie, I thought you said that people can interpret the written word the wrong way?” Yes, they can, and yes, they still may. However, an email platform is much more conducive to actually writing, if you do it right. Meaning, you need to sit down at a computer, not with your phone. It has long wide-open pages and options that let you express your full feelings by choosing your words more carefully. It will force you to think and revisit and edit. And, that is what you need. You need time to rewrite and be cautious. And on the receiving side, an email from a friend shows more serious thought and care and, therefore, will most likely be read more fully.

The same thing goes for actual written letters, times ten. Yes, words can still be misunderstood, but seeing someone’s actual handwriting can do wonders. It shows so much time, effort, and care; people really appreciate that and take it more seriously. It creates a “wow, you really care” vibe and garners more respect. So, even if they don’t agree, as long as you are careful in the way you have written that letter, you won’t end up losing said friend.

2) Talk peaceably and concisely. Don’t go in guns blazing.

Each of us gets passionate. We each have times where we feel justified in yelling or being angry and that anger may be justified, however, you are never going to truly win someone over with anger.

As ridiculous as it may seem, passion and anger are often misread as being uneducated or overzealous. It turns people off. So, make sure you cool yourself down first.

This ALSO applies to the concept of overwhelming someone.

Often times we have so much we want the other person to know that we want to rush in and tell them every little thing that we know. However, this is a poor tactic. It is more important for things to be digestible than to get every single thing across. Each of us can only handle so much.

Make a goal of the ONE thing you want to get across, the most important thing, and just focus on that. If they are interested and ask questions, then you can talk about it more, but, focus on one thing.

3) Don’t talk if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

We don’t know everything. However, sometimes, we want to express the things that we are learning to others, hoping they will be just as mortified as we are. However, take the time to have sources, real sources, before you start talking. Don’t claim more than you know. Especially, if this relationship is important to you, or it is something you really want to get across. This does not mean you need to overwhelm them with charts, just be able to tell them where you got this information and where they can find it. If you have to, write down what you want to explain to make sure that you can talk about it in a clear way.

Now that we have gone over some of the don’ts, let’s go over some tips for this specific situation/information.

Tip #1: Rapport

Rapport, in its essence, is how good someone feels about you at the moment you are speaking with them. I know people often use this in a long-term sense, as if once you have built up a relationship with someone you have rapport forever. In some sense, that is true, however, for the sake of getting people to listen to you, rapport is built every single time you see a person. You have to work at it.

You need to build good feelings between you and the person that you are talking with. This can be done by giving them compliments or noticing things they have done recently that they are proud of. Be sincere, not patronizing or manipulative. This can also be done by telling a joke or even building emotional intimacy by letting them know that what you want to talk to them about is very valuable to you and that, you truly value their opinion and who they are.

People want to be valued, they want to be loved, if you show them that you value them, in a sincere way, they will reciprocate that to you. You will be much more well-received.

Matching and Mirroring

This is another way of building rapport that is rather important for the acceptance of a message. Matching and mirroring are when two people are so wrapped up in conversation that they will copy each other’s body language, tone, and phrasing. This is easily achieved by watching their body language, waiting a few seconds, and then copying what they are doing.

This action tells the brain, “they are just like me, therefore I can accept their message.” This helps us get past the brain’s filter and into the subconscious. It may feel silly at first, but give it a try. You will know that you have gotten past the filter once you move and they copy you back. You may start to notice when you do this naturally, and that is also a good practice.

Tip #2: Emotion vs. Logic

There is a lot of new information that comes with a topic that goes against the mainstream. Therefore, you want to be very careful with how and when you present this information. Unfortunately, logic and facts have a hard time getting past people’s filters and being accepted. They must be combined with emotion.

Rapport begins to open the emotional channels to the brain. However, emotion can also work against you. This subject is extremely charged with emotion and many people may feel stunned, angry, or guilty. These feelings may cause them to reject your message. This is why it is extremely important to start by prepping their mind by letting them know that you are being vulnerable with them and that you are telling them this because you respect them, value them or feel like you can trust them.

This prepares their brain and helps them to be in a more open state. You can also ask them to be gentle. This sounds absurd. But, you can let them know that you need them to listen to all of what you have to say and that you are sure they will because you know how intelligent, caring, understanding, etc. This preps their brain to want to be the kind of person you have described and to act the way you expect.

Set the emotion in place FIRST, then move on to the logic.

How do you talk to other's about controversial subjects?

Tip #3: What facts should you talk about?

For this subject in particular, you will want to set the stage in a way that is similar to the one that I have in the first part of my article. They need to understand that in the vaccine herd immunity concept 95% of people must be vaccinated for it to work, first. This sets the entire premise. Then, you can introduce these new ideas. They don’t have to be in this order, but the logic seems to follow this way.

  • They need to understand that immunity wanes over time, to understand that it is a problem that 40%+ people are not up to date.
  • Then, they can understand that we are nowhere close to herd immunity. You can use the chart I have inserted to show this, however, for most people, it clicks when you say, vaccine immunity wanes over time, that’s why we get boosters and multiple shots.
  • You can also explain the differences in ages and what shots were available, that seems intuitive to people as well. The idea is to make the line of thinking seem innate to them. They don’t have to see the charts because these are things they already sort of know, even though they haven’t ever given it any thought.

You don’t have to include everything that I did, especially for the beginner, horizontal transmission may be a lot to take in. However, I do think it is something to bring up in further conversations.

The other points should also be done in a logical way again, it should seem innate. “Oh yeah, there are so many other childhood illnesses kids could get like croup or RSV.” Which leads to the thoughts of, “Oh yeah, I am not afraid of your kids suddenly having those other diseases because they have no symptoms and are healthy‚Ķso why am I worried about you passing measles?”

Logic can come back into people’s brains, you just have to turn the switch. Because, with these things, this logic IS INNATE. We DO know this on some level even though it seems so new. All you are doing is slowly bringing it back. So, say it the way that you would say anything else that just makes sense like they already know. Because they do.

4) Keep it light.

Even if they get angry, try to keep everything as light as possible. Do your best not to retaliate or get sarcastic. Do not call names and never brand yourself as “anti” anything, even if they do. Use positive words and rephrase.

If they get angry, apologize. NEVER apologize for your content, only apologize that you may have not communicated it in an effective manner, or that the time may not have been right. Let them know that you understand that this might be difficult to hear or understand and that you are not blaming them. Let them know you are still their friend you truly value them and if they don’t calm down say this,

“Is there another time that we can talk about this. It’s very important to me and I would really value you knowing why.”

If they say they don’t want to, do not push, just tell them you are always open. Change the conversation if you can, and try to get it back to being happy before you leave.

Do your best to always leave on a high note. It’s not always possible as some have cognitive dissonance that is so deep that they will just not be ready. But, if you can get to a high note, do and make sure you leave on that high note and let them know you would love to communicate more later.

5) It’s never over.

Even if for some reason they decide to be unkind or not listen, know, that it’s not over. Give it time and space. People often have to experience things many times to open their eyes. Continue to always be kind and reaffirm that you value them even if you are different.

Be willing to listen to their opinions and questions too. This will help you understand why they may not be accepting your message so that you can restructure it and try again later. There will be a later, just wait.

Need More Help on How to Talk with Others?

There are always times we feel like we are in a unique situation where you may need more information than what I have given here. What I have given are building blocks and they will get you far if applied well. However, it takes practice.

If you feel that you need more, I encourage you to look into my communication course which will teach you everything you need to know for any crucial conversation.

I also do personal consulting and give you one on one plans and practice for your specific situation. I promise there is a solution regardless of the circumstance and I will help you find it and succeed.

In the meantime, try it out. Practice, practice, practice. It is not the sexiest answer, but it is the most honest, just like any other skill you have to practice to be able to be a great communicator and this is no different. So, keep going, because people need this information and they need your voice.

Everything You Need to Know about the COVID 19 Vaccine

Our free guide will get you up to speed quickly and summarize trial results, government reports, and all publicly known knowledge about the vaccine.