How to talk to people who you disagree with on vaccinations

It’s a tough adjustment to make after so many places just stopped requiring masks.
Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 7:02 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The CDC is recommending all people start wearing masks again.

It’s a tough adjustment to make after so many places just stopped requiring masks.

So how do we grapple with that?

Jamie Boll asked Juliet Kuehnle, a counselor with Sun Counseling and Wellness.

Jamie: Are you worried about how all of this is going to hit people again?

Juliet: Yeah, I think this was everybody’s kind of worst-case scenario that we would feel like there was forward movement and then here we go again. Kind of feeling like it’s going backward and in a lot of ways it is, and so with this it remains unpredictable. And as I’ve told you guys from the beginning, that is the foundation for anxiety and stress, and so we’re all just exhausted. We’re tired of having to keep pivoting right and so yeah, I’m definitely worried about everything is going to kick up for people again.

Jamie: Is it normal to feel like you’re just sometimes on this emotional rollercoaster?

Juliet: Absolutely, we like to feel like we’re in control. You know, for better or worse, that’s we want to have some semblance of predictability and security and kind of emotional safety in our day-to-day. So yes, when that’s stripped away from us and we are constantly reminded that this is also out of our control in so many ways, then it takes us for a total spin and we might start to feel like there’s some traction, which is what happened over the last several months. We got really excited because we were so desperate to re-enter, and so I think it hit us even harder because then it kind of snuck up on us again. That oh, wait, no, no, we moved too fast. Not there yet.

Jamie: So, how do we handle these ups and downs in a healthy way?

Juliet: Yep, you know, it’s going to be some redundant information that I’ve been giving us since the beginning of the pandemic, but now, because our reserves are even lower since we’re much more depleted and we’re on a year and a half into having had many of our coping skills removed from us, we have to actually, really, really be intentional and thoughtful about how to care for ourselves and each other going forward. So find the things I’ve said, this one beginning, find the things that you can control. Practice accepting the things that you can’t, which includes trying to talk to other people about how they might be doing things differently. Things are getting even more and more divided. I think at this point too again and so we’re having to just be really clear about what our needs are, what boundaries we need for ourselves and our families, and that needs to be OK because we really need to focus on taking care of ourselves.

Jamie: And remind people of some warning signs to look out for it, not only in others, but in yourself.

Juliet: Sure, so as when we think about the things that are mostly spiking, when we’re when we feel so out of control. Anxiety, depression, stress levels I want you to pay attention to. If it’s harder to get motivated to do the things that you’re supposed to do in your day to day, harder to focus and concentrate. If you feel like your thoughts are really spinning and out of control, if you feel like it’s hard to just kind of get up and do the things that you’re used to doing it. You’re having a hard time even identifying what’s going on for you and communicating that to others. If you’re having trouble sleeping trouble with appetite, there are lots of really classic kind of warning signs, but knowing that our baseline has really changed over the past year and a half. Just be aware of what that functioning looks like for you and your family members and know that it’s OK to really check in with yourself and with each other.

Jamie: And I guess if you’ve been talking to someone throughout all of this, and maybe you kind of let that go because things were feeling better. It’s OK to go back, right?

Juliet: Oh yes. And actually, it’s we’ve seen an uptick again because there was such angst in the reentry part of it, when we thought things were going to be OK, how do we do the social things again and now feeling like the brakes are pumped again and we’re absolutely still feeling and you know, hearing a lot of that need for support. Please reach out.

Juliet mentioned there briefly, things are becoming more divided.

The CDC says if vaccinations pick up, the country could stop the spread of COVID in just a matter of weeks.

Right now, only about 50 percent of the country is fully vaccinated. About 43 percent are not vaccinated at all.

Many aren’t eligible -- but for some people, that is a choice.

They don’t want to be vaccinated. As masks come back and cases rise again - the choice to vaccinate or not - is becoming very divisive. How do we navigate those conversations, especially with loved ones?

Juliet says the key is to practice some grace.

Jamie: Both sides are convinced they’re right, right? So how do you sort of manage that minefield?

Juliet: Yeah, what happens is it turns right into arguments because it’s so emotionally charged. So what I think it can be helpful to do number one is know that you have the choice most of the time whether to engage or not. So there are times when you can decide it’s worth going into this conversation with somebody and then there are tips for how to do that well, but ultimately you also might not have to, and so we can give ourselves permission to just understand what safety physical and emotional safety looks like for you personally and what boundaries you might need as far as places you go, people you talk to, the things you are willing to do. It can help to de-personalize it.

Like I’ve said, this is obviously all very personal because we’re talking about people’s lives. But when you’re having those one on one conversations, de-personalize it in that moment. This person isn’t necessarily trying to target you yourself. It’s this greater thing and when you can widen the lens that way it can take some of that sting out of it.

Jamie: Is it OK to put markers down? You know, you can’t come to this family function if you’re not vaccinated, for example.

Juliet: Yes, and that’s really hard for people. It feels aggressive, it feels rude, it feels selfish, but a really important takeaway from this whole experience has been to understand that you can prioritize your needs. And there’s a big difference between aggressively doing that and assertively doing that and it is absolutely OK to practice. Just have a little hand response of hey, you know I’m not comfortable with that because X and so can’t wait until we can get together. It doesn’t have to be anything intense or long and drawn out. Just come up with something that asserts the boundary and keep it moving.

Jamie: How do you handle it if you’re the one being excluded? Because that’s difficult.

Juliet: Sure, I mean we have to respect each other’s opinions. We have to respect that people are in different places. Ultimately, you know that everybody is coming into it with their own value systems and their own opinions being reinforced by the like-minded people they’re surrounded by and so forth. That’s where that depersonalization comes in. That, OK, this is their opinion. It’s not about me specifically necessarily and I gotta respect that and so then you go find the places where you are welcome. Yeah, if there is a way to separate some of this stuff from the person, I think that’s helpful. If you kind of constantly remind each other that I love you. And I’ve always loved you. There’s this thing that is, you know, we obviously extremely disagree on. But what are the things about you that make you someone that’s been important in my life? And what are some of the things we need to kind of hold on to that, and to give ourselves permission to understand that it might take time as this stuff continues to kind of unfold to rebuild the relationship.

Jamie: These are unusual times. How important is it that we give each other some grace?

Juliet: Oh, it’s important, but again, I know that it matters and that’s the thing with this stuff is, we’re all so tired. We all want it to be different. We all want it to be different, so giving each other grace is wonderful and also hoping that people are equipped with the facts and understanding, again, that you can choose what that looks like for you about who you engage with.

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