If you really want people not to act stupidly, it might be better not to shout continually to them and all the world how stupid they are. Most people do have logical reasons for their actions, and if you want to change their behaviors, it helps to make a serious effort to find out why they do what they do.

I confess: I chose this particular post title because I'm curious what Facebook will do with it. But it's also true that it's about nonsense.

Today I came upon this article in the Tampa Bay Times. Two things reminded me of why following the news isn't good for my blood pressure.

As the pandemic takes another turn for the worse, Florida health experts are struggling with infrequent and incomplete data releases from the state. The state stopped reporting daily COVID-19 infection and vaccination data on June 3.

Sounds scary, right? How can one make decisions without data, and Florida has stopped reporting COVID-19 information.

But no. As the next sentence reveals,

Instead, it sends out weekly reports every Friday

Weekly data ought to be good enough for anyone; in fact, I'd rather get the numbers only once a week, since it smooths out the unhelpful bumps caused by daily reporting variations, e.g. the spike on Mondays because not all agencies file reports on Sundays.

We are far too addicted to instantaneous data, even if it has little significance. Feeding Central Florida hour-by-hour hurricane updates when the storm is still over a thousand miles away does no one any good. We already know what basic preparations we must make just in case it comes our way, and it's 'way too early to make evacuation decisions. Too much data only leads to panic and unwise behavior.

Most annoying from the article, however, is the attitude of this hospital spokesman:

“The reality is that I see a lot of people get sick from COVID, but I haven’t seen people come in with serious side effects from the vaccine,” Wilson said. “I haven’t seen anything bad happen to anyone for getting the vaccine.”

What does this say? It says that this person has no idea why rational and intelligent people would hesitate to get the COVID-19 vaccine. It reveals that she views them all as stupid and stubbornly ignorant. I know many people who have not yet been convinced to take the vaccine, none of them stupid, many of them much more knowledgeable about the risks and benefits than most of us who never questioned the wisdom of getting our shots.

No one I know is worried about present side effects, which is what this hospital representative is addressing. Their concerns are primarily that long-term side effects are completely unknown, because there simply has been no "long-term" as yet. For that matter, we are equally ignorant of the long-term effects of a COVID-19 infection itself. After all, it was decades before post-polio syndrome was recognized. If there are long-term negative side effects of the COVID vaccine, they may be significantly less than the side effects of getting the disease. Or they may be worse. We. Don't. Know.

If I were trying to convince someone to get vaccinated, I'd take their concerns seriously. I wouldn't shut their ears by calling them stupid and ignorant. I'd admit that we simply don't know and can't know what the long-term effects of the vaccine will be, but that to the best of our knowledge (if that is truly the case) they are likely to be less serious than the risks of getting the disease, both immediately and long-term. 

It's a calculated risk we take with every vaccine, with every medical procedure, indeed every time we get into an automobile or do anything in life.

Neither coercion nor contempt have a good track record at changing people's minds. Making an effort to understand their point of view guarantees nothing, but it's a much better place to begin.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, July 25, 2021 at 7:29 pm | Edit
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