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Motivational Interviewing Tips: 4 Ways We Promote Change

Speak4MC, LLC was created because of Motivational Interviewing (MI). Whether I was doing an unannounced visit at a client's home, presenting a performance improvement plan to staff, or de-escalating a 3-year-old on her third piece of Halloween candy, MI consistently proves to be the most potent approach to inspiring change.  


Since creating Speak4MC in 2021, I have trained upwards of 10,000 professionals in person and virtually across 17 states. However, like any skill, the power of MI is dependent on the person's willingness to practice and improve in it. Thus, here are four reminders on how to use MI to inspire change!

Recognize and emphasize autonomy: Motivation for change comes from within, so it is essential to acknowledge and respect the individual's freedom. For personal change to be sustainable, people must feel they have the power to succeed in changing. Instead of pushing your agenda, help them explore their reasons for considering a new path by asking open-ended questions and encouraging reflection.

Developing discrepancy: People are often ambivalent about change, having reasons to change and stay the same. Use reflective listening and summarizing techniques to help people recognize the difference between their current situation and their desired goals. This awareness of discrepancy can spur motivation for change.

However, discrepancy often causes internal discomfort, resulting in a battle between staying the same and changing. How you respond to someone during this internal chaos will impact which side "wins."

Support self-efficacy: Believing in one's ability to change is essential for taking action. Highlight the person's strengths and previous successes, reminding them that change is possible. Encourage small, manageable steps towards their goals to build confidence and demonstrate progress.

Remember that even though someone has reasons for change, they will be hesitant to try if they believe their attempts are futile. Your role is to encourage optimism and provide support.

Practice active listening: Listening attentively and nonjudgmentally is crucial in a motivational interview. Show genuine interest, maintain eye contact, and provide verbal and nonverbal cues that you are fully engaged.

Active listening builds rapport and trust with the person, creating a supportive environment for change. In our fast-paced world filled with distractions, accidentally allowing your mind to wander is an easy mistake to make.

However, when someone is talking through their evolution, they are searching for reasons to explain away inaction; your lack of attention as an interviewer could become one of those reasons. Be curious and empathetic when listening, avoiding roadblocks such as shaming or problem-solving.

In short, Motivational interviewing is a powerful tool for facilitating change and growth. By adopting these tips, you can create a supportive environment that empowers individuals to explore their motivations and take meaningful steps toward positive change.

Commit to practicing these tips; you will motivate people to pursue positive change.

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*Statements on this blog reflect the author's personal opinions and do not represent any other person, company, or organization. The purpose of this blog is general knowledge and to bring awareness to tools, techniques, people, and organizations that bring about positive change. The reader is strongly encouraged to perform independent research about the topics discussed.

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