I know people who have traveled literally for hours to get their COVID vaccine as soon as they were able, while others have steadfastly refused even though it was convenient for them to receive their shot.

It has been interesting to observe the messages that attempt to persuade people to go “sleeves up.” The ads, social media postings, and articles provide a range of scientific information, pleas on behalf of the community, assurances of safety, and cajoling. There are also messages from just about everyone: politicians, celebrities, loved ones of those who have died, and health professionals, all aimed at changing minds and spurring action. But not much of it is working.

A recent TIME article reported on a Harris Poll that said all of the shaming is actually counterproductive. “People think anti-vaxxers are stupid and selfish…It’s hard to get people to act in a cooperative manner when you approach them that way,” the research reports.

In order to craft more effective messaging, the researchers asked people who did get their vaccine what compelled them to do so. The primary influencer was a news story about the vaccine trials, and news stories about the results of those already vaccinated. But beyond the news, major influencers were individual needs: because they wanted to visit family or friends, because of a conversation with family or friends, because a family or friend got the vaccine or because they wanted to travel.

The poll results seem to suggest that appealing to friends to tell friends instead of relying on outside influencers would be more effective as would focusing on the benefits individuals could accrue rather than appealing to the community spirit may be better messaging.

But what I like most about this is the focus on asking those whose behavior you want to replicate — those vaccinated — about reasons why instead of asking the non-vaxxers why not. Think of how you could deploy this strategy in your organization — learning from those who have acted as you wish and using that information instead of shame to influence those who have not yet changed their behavior. There is power in the positive.

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