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I have an acquaintance, John, that I have known for a number of years. John and myself are both a part of a social media group made up of a number of friends and mutual friends. Recently I had a falling out with John because I was attempting to persuade him to take up a vaccination that he, and those around him, would highly benefit from. The conversation went along the following lines:

Friend #2: What have you been up to recently?
Me: I recently got my second vaccination for XYZ.
Friend #2: Oh cool!
Me: Have either of you been offered one yet?
Friend #2: No I haven't been offered yet.
John: I was offered it, but I turned it down.
Me: How come?
John: Because of [reasons related to use of abortion cells in some vaccines from >40 years ago that clashed with his catholic beliefs]
Me: Well John, look, I don't think that's entirely true, if you give me a few minutes, let me see what I can find, because that's not my understanding of vaccines.

I then went on to find several articles, written from trustworthy news and medical sources (eg- BBC, WHO, the BMJ), and then sent them in the group chat so that everyone could see. At this point the conversation seemed to take a turn for the worse, as when I asked John "has any of this changed your mind about taking this vaccine?", he responded with "No it hasn't", coming across in a somewhat defensive tone.

I should highlight that I respect his religious views, but I saw that he seemed mis-informed about the vaccine process and what was involved. Looking back I now see that I may have come across as pushy in attempting to persuade him. All of the above happened in a call on the social media group, the second friend (friend #2) being present but silent throughout the conversation.

The next day, I received a message from John along the following lines:

I don't want to discuss that topic with you again. I felt that you were wanting to change my opinion of receiving this vaccine.... This is not the first time that you have attempted to push your opinions on others just because they may not be educated...[accusation of bullying]... If you continue to treat others this way, you will find that I won't be as friendly/open/friend-like towards you.

I send a response that day that apologised for my actions and I asked if we could make amends, which there was not a reply to. I should highlight that being accused of bullying behaviour is news to myself - I have never been accused of it by any other acquaintance or friend. I should also mention that I am a christian (but not a Catholic), and this was not meant to come across as an attack on his religious views, but rather as a suggestion to reconsider his views on this vaccine that would protect not just himself, but those around him from infection (a point that was highlighted in the conversation, but seemed to be lost in talk.) During the conversation I attempted to keep my cool for most of the conversation, leaving the online call for a minute so I would not express my frustration at John.

I have since deleted most of the articles, left the social media group, deleted the apology message and unfriended John, and distanced myself from that group of friends (because as far as I see it, I don't wish to be accused of being something that I'm not.) Is there any way I could salvage this friendship?

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    Uhm... from the last paragraph it looks like you burned down the friendship, what is it you are trying to salvage? What do you expect from the other party? What're you willing to do repair this? – Erik Jun 17 at 20:54
  • @Erik I’m willing to reach out and fix things, but I’m not sure when is best to do this (After a week, two weeks, a month... longer?) – Spaceship Jun 17 at 22:36
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    You may have been in the right about your vaccine facts, but have you put yourself in your friend's place? He shared his objection with you, and your first response was to attack it and then press the issue. How would you feel? That should be the start of your mending the relationship. – baldPrussian Jun 18 at 23:57
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Well I've sometimes came out as insensitive in online interactions and that's understandable because you lack the visible cues someone is annoyed by a conversation.

When I did, my most successful attempts of mending the relationship were strategies about communicating without reopening the subject if possible, but putting the subject in a new light by communicating about my intentions and feelings during the conversation.

An example of this could be:

Hey. I just wanted you to know that I can be easily triggered by vaccine subjects. This is important to me and I consider being care and attention to encourage people vaccinating. I'm sad the way I communicated this came out as insensitive and disregarding your own beliefs it wasn't my intention to be mean and bullying.

You could take a positive response to this as an opportunity to explore other wounds John could have kept silent about:

You also mentioned previous events and occasions and I'm not sure what you refer about. Could you tell me more about what happened and when it happened?

And repeat the process over for each of these incidents.

This does not guarantee any kind of forgiveness or success but this is probably helping reminding most communication conflicts are the result of people having different ways of meaning well to each other rather than raw hostility.

I would not care too much about rumors John could spread if you made clear to him your intentions are not harmful. For the most part people can forge their own opinion; and while giving a listening ear to John they could also very well lean toward supporting you nonetheless. I know I've been silent in witnessing conflicts while internally supporting one side. So I'm not sure deciding to cut away from the other friends is a very rational move, as you right now have no evidence anybody else than John have a problem with your behavior.

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