Tips for a Safe, Judgment-Free Conversation

These evidence-based tips can help you have a conversation with someone who has a different view from you. Click the dropdown arrows to see examples of each tip in action.

Start By Listening

Listen fully and empathetically to what the other person is saying, without immediately offering solutions or judging.

You could say:

"Any time you want to chat about vaccine stuff, just hit me up.
I’ve had my own questions and concerns so I feel you..."

You might hear:

"Oh thanks. Yeah it’s been hard. I definitely read stuff.. but it would be helpful to have someone to talk to about it."

Reflect Back What You Heard

Reflect back what you heard to ensure that whoever you're speaking with knows that you've been listening and that they have been understood.

You might hear:

"It just feels too risky to get the vaccine now, I’d rather wait and see what happens in the next couple of months."

You could say:

"Yeah, makes sense. So you don’t think the risk of getting the vaccine right now is worth it, and you’d rather wait to see how it goes for others first."

Seek to Understand

Don’t assume you understand someone else’s fears or beliefs - ask them genuinely! Understanding where someone is coming from is a key starting point.

You might hear:

"I’m just not interested in getting the vaccine, bottom line."

You could say:

"I hear that. I’m curious, can you tell me more about why you feel that way?"

Share Personal Stories

Personal stories told authentically have huge power. Although someone might disagree with your opinion, no one can argue with your experience! Always look for ways to highlight stories from your own life.

You might hear:

"I'm kind of like - what’s the point of getting the vaccine if I can still get COVID anyway?"

You could say:

"Yeah, I was feeling so conflicted about this - I talked to my sister about it. She reminded me that even if you get COVID, it’s usually super mild if you’re vaxxed. But it might not be so mild if you're not vaxxed."

Highlight Areas of Opening and Agreement

We often agree on more than we realize. Always look for and highlight areas of agreement, and if it feels OK, try gently pointing out areas where someone might be open to change (even a little).

You might hear:

"I just want to get back to my life! I want to go to concerts and see my favorite bands."

You could say:

"Same! I totally feel that. Actually, that's why I ended up getting vaccinated, because concert venues around me were requiring vaccines."

Ask What Could Help

Often a simple approach, asked with genuine curiosity, is the most helpful. Try asking what could help someone understand, feel OK, or feel supported with a tough decision.

You might hear:

"I don’t like all these incentives - they seem suspicious. Why do we need them all if the vaccine is so great?"

You could say:

"Yes, it does feel a little overboard. Is there anything that you think would help convince you?"

Explore Resources Together

It’s almost always better to learn together with someone rather than trying to lecture to them as if you know better. Look for ways to discover resources together as a team.

You might hear:

"I feel overwhelmed whenever I look at things online and don’t know what to trust!"

You could say:

"I feel you! I saw a great post the other day from the medical research team at Johns Hopkins medical school. What if we read through it together and compare notes?"

Lead with Support over Persuasion

Offer support in ways that invite the person to consider and think about their beliefs, rather than just to change their mind.

You might hear:

"I just hate being told what to do."

You could say:

"Totally. I listened to a good podcast the other day about the anxiety we all feel from the pandemic and decision overload. I thought it was reassuring to hear that we’re all going through this... interested in hearing it too? I could send it"!

Be Patient, Not Pushy

Most complex topics will take time for people to think through, understand, and feel comfortable discussing. Don’t push - this can backfire! Most people need time and space to marinate on tough topics.

You might hear:

"Honestly, I just hate how much we’re getting bombarded with these mandates. I want my old life back."

You could say:

"I completely agree. It’s a really hard time for me too, and pretty much everyone I know. I’m here any time you want to chat - or just to vent!"

Practice a #NoJudgment conversation

Try out an interactive text conversation using the tool below.

Click 'Get Started' and choose how you might respond to each text as if you were having a conversation with a friend. Click on the grey box in the upper right corner to open the conversation in a larger screen.

Click the buttons on the phone screen!

#NoJudgment - Textversations FINAL - 16:9

Watch an example of a #NoJudgment conversation about getting a COVID vaccine:

Young Person to Young Person

Click here to see more videos of example convos and vaccine testimonials from young people