According to a study by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, an estimated 1 out of 3 Germans seem to be open to conspiracy theories. Ever since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, fake news about medicine and health have increased significantly – and with it, a wave of conspiracy theories. Let’s be honest, we all know someone close to us or in our family, who believes in conspiracy theories, or even spreads them on social media. When the debates start at the dinner table and all common sense disappears, it is not easy to remain calm. So what steps should you take?

Ingrid Brodnig, an Austrian author and journalist, has published a book called Countering Conspiracy Myths and Fake News. This guide is aimed at anyone who has a conspiracy-minded family member or friend, in order to understand how to deal with this kind of person. She first explains how belief in a conspiracy theory often arises in a crisis situation, and is based on fear or pure ignorance. She points out three key behaviors to adopt if you find yourself in front of a conspiracy theorist:

  1. Don’t focus on counter-arguments, but rather question what the other person says: where did they get this information? Why do they believe this particular person? The more questions you ask, the more oriented the discussion will become.
  2. Keep the conversation on one topic that you are comfortable with, so that you don’t get sidetracked.
  3. Understand the mechanisms of your counterpart: this person will sometimes try to confuse you during the conversation, especially by using precise scientific terms. If you take this into account, you will be able to foresee any response from them.

Above all, it is important not to lose contact with this person, so that he or she does not become isolated. Indeed, some people gradually become detached from their family and friends, and this is the precise moment where conspiracy theories are dangerous: when they play on a person’s emotions and influence their life.