How do I respectfully share my vaccine enthusiasm with a hesitant-but-still-open-minded loved one?


A: An “empathy sandwich” can help. Prioritize connecting over convincing.

Along with a big show of support, we Nerdy Girls are here to provide you with evidence-based tips designed to keep conversations both kind AND scientifically grounded 💕🤓💕

The TL;DR:
An “empathy sandwich” approach can be a helpful guide.

Be sure to really pause and hear their concerns. Treat these concerns with empathy.

Don’t overwhelm with a flurry of statistics. Use “I” statements (example below).

Reiterate your empathy for their specific concern(s), and express gratitude for their willingness to share it.

The end-goal is to stay connected. Building vaccine confidence can be a hard, slow process. It’s A-OK to choose your conversations wisely, conserving emotional reserves. These conversations are best conducted off social media. Hesitancy is not the same as anti-vax; our tips apply to the former. You do not have to sacrifice your own values to acknowledge the beliefs of others. It’s OK to disagree.

The longer take – developed via an example conversation inspired by the well-respected COVID Vaccine Communication Handbook and Wiki (url below):

➡️ Start by listening with authentic empathy.
Example: “I know you’re coping with continuing nerves around getting vaccinated, and I’m sorry you’re facing this stress. Is there any specific source of concern that you’d like to share?”

➡️ Connect around shared values to build a solid jumping-off point.
Example: “I really respect that you’re taking your health choices seriously and want to seek out the best information possible. I also empathize with your concern around the messaging of vaccine development happening at ‘warp speed.’”

➡️ Share a piece of science that gives you comfort using “I” statements. When possible, include a clear, solid numerical fact.
Example: “I feel reassured knowing that there were zero shortcuts in the science, and that the speed of the operation refers to manufacturing and distribution. The safety and efficacy of the vaccine were rigorously tested through the standard clinical trial process, and scientists around the globe have vetted the results. I’m also comforted that over 240 million doses have already been administered in the U.S. and that the safety and effectiveness profiles of the vaccine have borne out across this very large group of vaccinated people.”

➡️ Listen (again! and again! 😊) and prioritize staying connected.
Example: “I’m glad that some of this reassurance resonates, and I get that taking it all in is a process. I appreciate being able to talk about this together; please know I’m here to lend a friendly ear.”

➡️ End by showing authentic empathy.
Example: “All of us are facing a firehose of information about vaccination – some of it solid, some of it totally toxic. It’s exhausting and overwhelming to navigate. I’m grateful you feel comfortable sharing your concerns with me.”

To wrap:
As always, you can count on the Nerdy Girls to stay on the beat. We promise to keep pushing out evidence-based tools helping us all stay safe and stay sane.

Your Nerdy Girls


Empathy is #1

Using “I” statements
Note: This website below is chock-a-block full of helpful specific talking points

It’s A-OK to choose your conversations wisely

COVID Vaccine Communication Handbook and Wiki
Note: recommended by Nerdy Girl shero Liz Neeley, an A+ #scicomm expert

Share a clear, solid numerical fact: pg. 194 in Dr. Ellen Peters’ a-mazing new book “Innumeracy in the Wild: Misunderstanding and Misusing Numbers.” University of Oxford Press (2021).

Prior DP post on communicating vaccine enthusiasm with love

Link to original FB post