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 Award-winning business author and broadcaster

Leadership trainer and coach

Keynote speaker

  • Writer's pictureAudrey Tang

Don't assume...ask; don't!

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

I'm often asked for "Opinion"...I can discuss both sides, but you'll generally find me on the fence, this is why.

Novak Djokovic said in a radio he wasn't "Anti Vax", but in fact "no-one had asked him the question." When I've been asked to comment on vaccines, one of the key things I highlighted was that we don't talk about vaccinations enough, instead we tend to assume that someone who doesn't have the covid vaccine is an anti vaxxer, and/or that someone who does is compliant...or cares about their community...and it's far more complex than that.

Research by the Royal Society of Medicine outlines the "5 Cs of compliance" (to any medical treatment):

- Confidence in it working

- Complacency – how worried are we

- Communication – how we have been asked

- Constraints – or how convenient it is to comply

- Context - other socio-demographic factors

The problem is we sometimes jump to selfishness as the only reason – ie. people who don't do (or do) something in opposition to our approach are being selfish…when we haven’t taken the time to ask about the other elements.

Research from Wales for example, found that adverse childhood trauma could play a part in not wanting to consent to medical intervention - this could relate to mistrust of authority figures, or even directly of the medical profession...TRUST is a huge motivating factor in our behaviour as brain imaging studies have shown pathways in the brain actually break down in a betrayal of trust! – as a child if the only people who we needed to trust couldn’t be trusted to be consistent, then resistance to compliance may follow.

Perhaps it's an issue of consent and wanting to assert control over one's body?

Perhaps it's about a keen adherence to nutrition and the gut-brain biome?

Perhaps it's not just "TRANSFERRANCE" of social learning (seeing parents who didn't believe in certain things), nor of learned behaviours eg: I couldn’t trust my mum, so now I don’t trust authority…it might be more than that – perhaps you WERE seen by the NHS but because your parents covered up their behaviour or perhaps the service was effectively sporadic – for whatever reason – you might have developed a direct mistrust of the NHS. Let's pause on vaccines for example – in the US thousands of black lives were experimented on medically – of course there is going to be mistrust within the black community!

We need to go a long way to repairing the breakages before we can make assumptions!

...and this doesn't really even consider the five factors identified by the RSM!


Who is to say that someone who is anti vax - or more specifically - anti covid vax is singularly selfish?

Who is to say those who are vaccinated are compliant? …(ok – call me compliant, but I am simply pro vax, I’ve grown up having to take vaccines to travel to Malaysia, I visited people with Tuberculosis during my masters so I had my BCG, even though my mum actually didn’t let me have it when I was younger…and I’m grateful for the FREE service we have the luxury of in the UK.

It's only when you talk you can see pro and anti rules often goes much deeper than selfishness.

Rather than make assumptions and pass judgments on things that in the bigger picture have little consequence for us perhaps try this:

- Reflect on why you feel so strongly about someone's position held in opposition to your own

- Reflect on the complexity of your own behaviours...have you NEVER said something and done another (because of some mitigating factor?)

- Related to reflection 2, think about how you would feel being judged poorly because of the above, especially when someone doesn't know the full story.

- And channel your energy on things which will make a positive impact on your life.

Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience. For self development tools based within positive psychology: click Her YouTube Channel . Twitter/IG @draudreyt


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