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Tips to avoid Thanksgiving squabbles over the COVID-19 vaccine

How you can have a civilized discussion at the dinner table this year.

CLEVELAND — Thanksgiving is just over a week away. This year, the vaccination debate might cause some arguments at the dinner table. 

So how can you have a civilized discussion?

If you're the host, of course you can make rules that all must be vaccinated, but excommunicating family may cause more stress down the road.

Experts say start by dropping your judgement and just listen. Set a calm tone of the conversation by letting them know you will be patient, open and honest. Reserve your opinion but respect theirs and don't dismiss their reasons. 

Remember this is someone you love enough to have at dinner.

If you're honest about what you know and don't know, you give them permission to question their own preconceived biases. It allows you both to have an open conversation that’s productive, not argumentative.

Share with them what made you decide to get the vaccine. Include facts and resources that helped you make your decision and personal conversations you've had with your own medical professionals.

Ask them if they see any benefits to getting the vaccine. Ask if they've spoken to their personal doctor about it, and if not, gently suggest that perhaps that's something they might want to do.

It may not work with everyone, and if they still choose not to get vaccinated, accusing them of not doing their part, belittling them or demonizing them isn't going to help. But it may put a permanent rift in your relationship.

Instead, ask what are they willing to do to protect someone you both love at dinner? Masks, social distancing etc.? Or tell them your personal concerns for them if they are not protected.

Studies show people are far more likely to listen to loved ones than they are government or the news.

If you can't come to a reasonable agreement, perhaps try again for the December holidays or agree to disagree and plan to get together hopefully next year.

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