Motivational Interviewing: Working Together for Change

How do you motivate someone else to change their behavior when they haven’t previously responded to your advice, knowledge and repeated expertise, and is ambivalent about making change?

Yesterday, I finished day 2 of a 2 day workshop where I started to learn a skill that may prove to be more powerful than persuasion, at least in the context of changing someone else’s behavior who is ambivalent about something in their life: motivational interviewing.

My day job at California Quality Collaborative (CQC), a program of Pacific Business Group on Health, works to educate medical groups, health plans and hospitals to teach specific trainings on quality improvement and build capacity of individuals to sustain the change through skills and methodologies. This workshop was one of the trainings we organize.

The key message of motivational interviewing: this is a skill that allows you to work more effectively with someone and change their behavior (and there is even clinical evidence to support it).

Instead of demanding that someone changes, you first:

  • Treat them with compassion
  • Accept who they are
  • See your relationship as a partnership
  • Work in the spirit of evocation (compassion, acceptance, partnership, evocation = CAPE)

4 interaction skills are crucial to engaging with someone for motivational interviewing:

  • Open ended questions
  • Affirmations (affirming things that are good about a person but not complimenting someone)
  • Reflections (reflecting or repeating back to the patient what was said)
  • Summaries (summarizing what the patient said)

You can learn so much from people and build trust much faster when you use compassion, acceptance, partnership and evocation – and by asking people genuine, interested questions that leave space for answers.

Have you heard of motivational interviewing?

What has happened in the past when you try to help someone make a change in their life?


Jen Burstedt

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