Sitting in front of you is a person ambivalent about making a change. As a helping professional, you might feel the urgency and anxiety to relieve suffering by trying to “fix a problem”. So, you start with an appeal for change by listing the reasons and importance of making this change—telling the person, in essence, what needs to be done. You become less interested in hearing the person’s story and ideas and become more focused on making change happen. As the conversation progresses, you notice that the person starts to lean away from you, limit their conversation with you. You hear comments like: “no, that’s not it” or “it’s too hard to change”.
Sitting in front of you is a person ambivalent about making a change. You might still feel that urgency and anxiety to relieve suffering, but you remind yourself that change is a process and that ambivalence around change is normal rather than a problem to be fixed. You breathe a little deeper and start to listen intently to the person’s own reasons and importance for making the change. You start to reflect back to the person their own comments around change while giving space to understand the complexity and challenge of the change process for the person. You start to see the person lean in and share more details about this change process. You continue to reflect back the person’s own thoughts, ideas, and confidence around making a change while sprinkling in lots of affirming comments to highlight the person’s strengths. When you sense the person feeling stuck or at a loss for ideas, you respectfully ask permission to share some ideas that have worked for others in a similar situation. You realize their comfort in talking with you and see that your menu of options has triggered the person's own ideas to flow again. You hear comments like “exactly, that’s what I mean” or “I can give that a try”
When people are facing a decision about change, the tendency to offer unsolicited advice and push for change that comes from an external source tends to discourage a person, make a person feel misunderstood, and ultimately makes a person list reasons to stay the same. With training, practice, and consistent feedback, MI becomes the ultimate conversation changer—with the goal to increase client and provider satisfaction in services provided.