Tips For Talking To Friends, Neighbors Who Oppose Wearing A Mask

Mask wearing is a polarizing topic, so one expert recommends starting with questions, sharing reliable information, and knowing when to walk away.
Posted at 7:40 PM, Aug 23, 2021

Whether in school or at the grocery store, mask wearing has become a polarizing topic. Yet it's one of the simplest steps people can take to help stop the spread of COVID-19. So what’s the most effective way to talk to someone who opposes wearing a mask?  

"People have no hesitation at all of wanting to spout whatever their personal belief is. And I think that it's important to allow them to discharge that first, before you try to come with a counterpoint," said Gregory Nawalanic, a clinical psychologist for the University of Kansas Health System.

The political division caused by the pandemic plays a big role in conversations about masking, social distancing and the vaccines. Clinical psychologist Gregory Nawalanic says any productive conversation should start with questions.   

"It's important to be able to say, I understand that you are on a different side of this, and maybe you see things differently. Help me understand how you come to have your beliefs and hold them so tightly," said Nawalanic.   

If those beliefs are based on misinformation or unreliable sources, that can be a hard obstacle to overcome. That’s when Nawalanic says it might be best to agree to disagree. 

"The moment that you start to notice your blood pressure, your respiration rate, your heart rate increasing, you're starting to feel a little bit of sweat, you're starting to feel kind of angry. That's the point at which it's time to stop because this conversation is no longer beneficial," said Nawalanic.  

But walking away from the conversation shouldn’t be viewed as a failure. 

"With the emotion around this, the ability for someone to hear your perspective and really meaningfully process that information isn't going to happen right in that moment. But to be fair, they may kick it around later, once they've calmed down, they may think back and say, you know, like, I do miss seeing certain family members or certain friends who have taken a different path," said Nawalanic.