Translating across Covid bubbles

Translating across Covid bubbles

Have you had successful conversations with people who share different Covid ideas from you? I'd love to hear what they've been like. A friend posted a request for advice and I wrote this. It's one method, but it might not be the best:

First, I would connect with what part of her perspective is reasonable and could make sense to a rational person. Politicians have really failed us this year with messaging, the vaccines are new, there's been very little messaging about wellness which does have a major impact, and lockdowns have taken an enormous toll — I think those are all reasonable perspectives.

People can tell immediately if you think they're dumb and aren't engaging with their arguments and it (quire reasonably) creates defensiveness.

Second, I would focus primarily on building and maintaining the relationship, without a desire to change her mind. The most powerful thing she could walk away from this with is feeling heard, understand, and more deeply connected to a friend despite having a different perspective. The thought "well, Sabrina believes different things and she's not half bad" is REALLY powerful in this dynamic in the long term. Ask her questions. Show interest in her responses and how she put things together. I like saying things like "hey, it's awesome that we can have this conversation even though we believe different things." This is important for so many reasons: she'll feel more comfortable and less defensive, you might learn something about your or her perspectives and how they came to be, and you'll preserve the relationship.

I would personally stop there, with the goal of having a curious conversation where no opinions are changed but you've both learned a lot about each other. If you want to go further, then I think keeping it about yourself. Some things I've said:

  • One thing that's tough for me about some of the conspiracy narratives is whether they're testable. If a worldview isn't based on testable things, then how do you know if it's right? Let me think about what in my version of this is testable. How about you?
  • I certainly have health concerns about the vaccine, but I weighed those against the risks with Covid and it's just so no contest.
  • One reason I formed my perspective was that my friends and I saw the threat of Covid (which clearly didn't turn out to be as bad as it seemed like it would be from Wuhan with people dying on the street) and there was a whole month where all the governments downplayed it. So we kept asking "why are they downplaying it" and that led to us seeing them as bumbling players in this whole drama rather than architects. I can see how if the first thing you heard was the 2-week lockdown and then it extended, you'd have a different perspective.

These days I am trying to not look at facts in these conversations at all. I don't think these conversations are actually about facts, I think they are usually about IDENTITY. She is likely more focused on identity and values than on facts, and you probably are as well...we all are. I would try ignoring all the facts and looking at the identity conversation you're having — see what concerns her about what she perceives about your identity and vice versa, and see what you share in terms of identity.

And if all the above seems like way too much work, you don't have to engage.

In my experience sending facts will almost never change someone's mind unless they explicitly show openness and curiosity.