How to have a difficult conversation about vaccines

Develop skills and gain confidence to help you talk about Covid-19 vaccines with others who may be feeling hesitant

If you are finding it difficult to talk about the Covid-19 vaccines with a friend or family member, you can use this guidance to help you gain confidence to have effective conversations.

It is important to have open and honest conversations with the people around us especially the people who we are connected to and feel supported by. Even when it’s difficult, these discussions can help us practise kindness and achieve mutual understanding and respect.


"1"Start with yourself

Take your time and reflect on your feelings. You can start by asking yourself: "How do I feel about having a challenging conversation?"

You can answer with both positives and challenges. Try to define why you feel this way. If you find yourself feeling worried, you could do the circles of control activity to help you focus on what you have influence over.

Now ask yourself what the purpose of this conversation is. Think about how this discussion might help you and those around you.

Reflect on your previous experiences. Think of an example of where you have had to have a challenging conversation.

  • What was the outcome?
  • How did you feel?
  • What can you learn from this experience?

If you avoided the discussion entirely:

  • What happened?
  • How do you feel about it now?
  • What would you do differently now?

Make sure you have the right information. You can check everything you need to know about the Covid-19 vaccine.

Preparing yourself and taking care of your own wellbeing is important too.

"2"Now think about the other person

It is important to be open to someone else's perspective; recognise the value it brings and encourage yourself to consider how others feel.

Imagine how they are feeling. What do you know about them already? What worries do you think they have? Try to understand the feelings behind their worries. Considering their past experiences, values and background may help you to understand them better.

During times like these, it is understandable that a person may feel worried. Remember to keep considering their thoughts and feelings during the conversation. When listening to them, put yourself in the other person's shoes. Some key tips to follow are:

  • Give them space to talk 
  • Actively listen to them and acknowledge their worries, questions and emotions 
  • Take in what they are saying, and if you don't understand ask them to clarify 
  • Make a conscious effort to let them finish talking before you reply 
  • Listing facts and figures won’t work to help them feel better but ensuring they know the facts not the fiction is important. You can use our FAQs to support you
  • If more information is needed, take the time to use trusted sources like the NHS to find more information together 
  • If needed invite them to do the circles of control activity so that they can visualise their feelings 

Reflect on the positive impact listening and understanding can have on you both.


"3"Starting a conversation

When you feel ready, think about having a conversation.

Think about planning the conversation first, reflecting on the when, how, where, who, and what.

  • When are you going to start this conversation? Try and do it when you have plenty of time. 
  • How are you going to communicate? Is text message the best way to chat or a phone call? Think about the person you're talking to and what makes sense for them. 
  • Where are you going to have this conversation? Whether you are face to face or apart, an environment where you both feel comfortable is important. 
  • Who is part of this conversation? Do you want a friend or family member present to support you, or would you prefer a good one on one? Everyone is different, you need to think what works for you and the person you’re talking to. 
  • What are you going to say first? It is best to listen and answer according to what they say, but starting a difficult conversation can be daunting. You can start by asking an open-ended question like “how are you feeling recently?” or more specifically, “how are you feeling about the vaccines?” 

Remember, communication includes tone of voice, facial expressions and eye contact, so it is important to encourage and show kindness in what you say and how you say it.

Remind yourself of the positive outcomes these conversations may have, for you, for them and for the people around you. Can you list one possible positive outcome for each?


"4"Further Actions

  1. After having the conversation think about how you feel now, do you feel better? Ask the other person how they feel too.
  2. Remember that it may take more than one conversation. You may feel that you have not achieved your goal. Be patient and understand we are all human.
  3. Encourage them to look at our vaccine voices stories for examples of people who had worries about the vaccine, but overcame them through talking to others. 
  4. Share the circles of control activity and encourage them to reflect on how they can feel better about the things they can control. 
  5. They may have heard some things that are not true that are making them worry. In that case, sharing trusted sources is important. They can check the coronavirus FAQs for the facts about the vaccines.