Description: How do you deal with someone who you believe is completely unreasonable? Well, one possible answer that makes a lot of sense is simply to not deal with them at all. Who needs the stress and the headaches associated with trying to take on an unreasonable person and try to get them to BE reasonable and change their mind? Well sometimes, the issue involved is too important to allow you to walk away from the unreasonable person. Leaving recent American impeachment proceedings aside (as a Canadian I prefer to walk away from those or to at least view them as a form of cautionary theatre) a more global issue over the coming days and months will be the uptake of the various COVID-19 vaccines that are finally rolling out. Around 39% of Americans are saying that they are definitely pr probably NOT going to be vaccinated. 25% of Canadians worry that the vaccines may not be totally safe and 22% say they will not get the vaccine out of safety concerns and concerns over rollout management. Those sorts of percentages raise questions as to whether or how quickly we wil reach the levels of vaccinated protection needed to allow us some degree of confidence that the pandemic has been reined in. So, image that you have a friend who has indicated that they have decided not to get vaccinated and imagine that you have decided to try and change their mind on that subject. How would you proceed? Let’s leave making it illegal not to get vaccinated off the table. Think about how you would attempt to get your “unreasonable” friend to change their mind, assuming, of course, that you do not agree with them. Once you have your plan in mind read the article linked below which is written by an Industrial/Organizational psychologists who has done research on motivating people to change their minds and who actually has a friend who is leaning hard towards NOT getting vaccinated or having his children vaccinated against the corona virus.
Source: The Science of Reasoning With Unreasonable People, Adam Grant, The New York Times.
Date: January 31, 2021
So, the brute force approach to changing someone else’s mind on an issue that you see as very important not just to yourself but to general public health and wellbeing does not generally work very well. The description of Motivational Interviewing and the discussion of how it could possibly be applied to your interactions with your friend over the matter in vaccination is well laid out makes sense. Research in a great many areas (see the list of further readings) has demonstrated that is a very effective way to get people to decide to make and to actually implement personal change. Perhaps we should all pay attention to the suggestions offered as we start to come up against individuals or groups who are part of the not insubstantial portion of the population who are opposed to getting vaccinated. Doing so will help us deal with the current public health crisis and it will potentially help us to back away from some of the other descriptors that we typically associate with unreasonable (such as stubborn, unintelligent, stupid, crazy, or delusional) even if we don’t say them out loud. We could all be better off for it, research suggests.
Questions for Discussion:
- How would you approach or argue with a friend who told you that they were not going to get vaccinated against Covid-19?
- What is Motivational Interviewing and what does it involve?
- How might the suggested advantages of Motivational interviewing in relation to getting more people to get vaccinated be put into place (in addition to you using it with your friends)?
References (Read Further):
Rubak, S., Sandbæk, A., Lauritzen, T., & Christensen, B. (2005). Motivational interviewing: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British journal of general practice, 55(513), 305-312. Link
Heckman, C. J., Egleston, B. L., & Hofmann, M. T. (2010). Efficacy of motivational interviewing for smoking cessation: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Tobacco control, 19(5), 410-416. Link
Armstrong, M. J., Mottershead, T. A., Ronksley, P. E., Sigal, R. J., Campbell, T. S., & Hemmelgarn, B. R. (2011). Motivational interviewing to improve weight loss in overweight and/or obese patients: a systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Obesity reviews, 12(9), 709-723. Link
Resnick, Brian (2020) How to talk someone out of bigotry, VOX, Jan 29, 2020 Link
Boodman, Eric (2019) The vaccine whisperers: Counselors gently engage new parents before their doubts harden into certainty, StatNews, Link
Gagneur, A., Lemaître, T., Gosselin, V., Farrands, A., Carrier, N., Petit, G., … & De Wals, P. (2018). A postpartum vaccination promotion intervention using motivational interviewing techniques improves short-term vaccine coverage: PromoVac study. BMC Public Health, 18(1), 1-8. Link
Lemaitre, T., Carrier, N., Farrands, A., Gosselin, V., Petit, G., & Gagneur, A. (2019). Impact of a vaccination promotion intervention using motivational interview techniques on long-term vaccine coverage: the PromoVac strategy. Human vaccines & immunotherapeutics, 15(3), 732-739. Link
Itzchakov, G., DeMarree, K. G., Kluger, A. N., & Turjeman-Levi, Y. (2018). The listener sets the tone: High-quality listening increases attitude clarity and behavior-intention consequences. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44(5), 762-778. Link
Magill, M., Gaume, J., Apodaca, T. R., Walthers, J., Mastroleo, N. R., Borsari, B., & Longabaugh, R. (2014). The technical hypothesis of motivational interviewing: A meta-analysis of MI’s key causal model. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 82(6), 973. Link