Motivating people to make changes (ii)

The second of a series about using values and empathy to help people make choices

The first installment in this series looked at why people might not be doing what we think they ‘should’ and how they might show this. This installment looks at developing rapport and reviews the essential interpersonal skills that are needed.

Rapport – what does it really mean? Is it just making small talk so the person calms down and is ready to listen to what we want to say? Or is it something much deeper?

Superficially, rapport is really about ensuring you and the other person are on the same wavelength. It can be as simple as asking them about the weather, or did they have a good day, or ‘what can I do for you?’ Done glibly it can be shallow and forced – and you know the person will only tell you what they think you want to hear (until they are just walking out the door and say ‘oh by the way…’!)


To respect this person’s situation, we need to believe that they have made the best possible choices given the resources they had at that time, and that to them their choices made sense at least once. Something about their choice was important to them at the time. Their choices reflect their values – what is important to them.


Although there are specific skills to help develop rapport, the first and most essential element is actually an attitude: ask yourself ‘Do I really respect this person?’ Respect means accepting that although the person is different, and has made choices that are different from yours, you can honour their position and understand that they have done so to make the best possible decision at the time.

Reflective listening is a basic skill taught (usually) early on in health professional training. It’s often assumed by both ourselves and others that we know how to use reflective listening, but sometimes our skills haven’t developed since we first learned them!

For more details – click here to go to this post in my Coping Skills section!



Motivating people to make changes (i)

The first of a series about using values and empathy to help people make choices

Most of our training in health care provision assumes that:

  • the people we will be working with are ready to receive our knowledge/expertise
  • we know more than they do (about what they should do)
  • their health status is the most important thing in their lives (well, we think health is important, don’t we?)
  • all they need is for us to tell them what to do and they will go away and just do it

And if they don’t – they’re ‘resistant’, ‘not motivated’, ‘noncompliant’, ‘nonadherent’.

– and we’ve always known how they show us this!!

They may

  • say ‘yes but’ to any suggestions
  • become silent
  • become angry
  • deny they have a problem
  • interrupt
  • avoid making a commitment
  • not come back to see you
  • pretend they are doing what you suggest, but actually do nothing

By taking care to really understand the good things about the way the person is currently acting, and the not so good things about changing, we can work together to help change occur out of intrinsic motivation, or values that the person holds.

Read on…!

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