I'm not good at it, personally. But NBC News has some advice they've titled "How to talk to your friends and family about Covid, vaccines and wearing masks:"
“You always want to offer your empathy first,” said Amy Pisani, executive director of Vaccinate Your Family, the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to vaccine advocacy. “If they have a personal story, start with your shared values.”
Steven Taylor, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, said that confrontation is particularly doomed to failure when talking to people who have fallen down conspiracy rabbit holes.
“Many conspiracy theorists score high in a trait called psychological reactance, which, to put it simply, is like an allergic reaction to being told what to do,” Taylor said. “We have to think of messages that don’t trigger that psychological reactance.”
Rather, it may be more effective to find non-confrontational ways to appeal to people that don’t overtly challenge their sense of self or freedom — a concept that Taylor refers to as introducing “behavioral nudges.” Instead of harping on the scientifically proven benefits of wearing a mask, for instance, people could try to convince friends and family to don face coverings for the good of their community.
Sander van der Linden, a social psychologist at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., said the emergence of conspiracy theories in times of upheaval has been well-documented throughout history.
“What you often see is that in times of uncertainty — whether it’s political uncertainty, economic uncertainty or social uncertainty — there’s a surge in conspiracy theories,” van der Linden said.
And that’s cause for real concern. Van der Linden’s research has shown that people who believe misinformation about the coronavirus are less likely to wear masks or get vaccinated, which makes it critical at this juncture of the pandemic to try to engage, rather than ignore, skeptical loved ones.
In times of extreme stress, we become apes, in other words. Yet somehow, we'll get through this.