Do you want to be seen as helpful and empathetic or someone who was trying to fix their situation? In Motivational Interviewing we call this the “righting reflex.”
Bern Williams states “unsolicited advice is the junk mail of life.”
What is it in us as human beings that we think we have the ability to find solutions for another’s problems?”
Interesting enough, research shows that is it is NOT information that leads to behavior change, but rather one’s own internal motivation and the importance of the change in one’s life.
That’s where MI sheds light on how to have a conversation to pull from one’s own internal motivation.
Using the tools of MI involves being willing to suspend the need to use your own expertise until is it called upon.
Without understanding your client’s perspective, we can quickly say what should be done, assuming there is a deficit or barrier rather than one’s own internal wisdom.
We often get into a pattern of:
- Clearly you don’t know how to do this, so here’s some suggestions
- Have you tried this solution or why haven’t you tried XYZ?
It may be human nature to assume one’s lack of knowledge and better judgment, but it’s also human nature to suspend judgment and come alongside our fellow man to transcend it.
What does an approach with MI look like?
- What would be helpful to talk about today?
- What would you like things to look like after our session?
- If you were to make this change, how would that change your life?
Having curiousity, interest and a shared purpose may be the start of stopping the “righting reflex.”
The paradox of change is that when a person feels accepted for who they are and what they do – no matter how unhealthy – it allows them the freedom to consider change rather than needing to defend against it.
The most important part is when your client realizes the answer lies inside them, and your MI skills were able to evoke that wisdom.
So if you ever get to be a fly on the wall, how satisfying it will be to hear your client share how your empathy and reflective listening was life changing for them…without ever needing to give one piece of advice.