Ever want to help a friend, loved one or spouse make some healthy life changes? Do they or you ever get stuck in the process? This blog is all about trying to help friends make changes, by understanding communication and the roadblock it can have on change. Check it out!
I keep trying to help them change
“Gah, I gave her really good advice last time-and she is still complaining about that?”
“Why won’t my kids listen to me, I’m helping them to be successful!”
“Ugh if only my husband would take care of his health, it bothers me that it doesn’t seem to be a priority for him.”
Have you ever uttered these phrases? Wanting to help those around you, but it just never seems to work?
Did you know there is science behind how you can communicate to someone about change that will either increase resistance or decrease it?
It’s a communication method that the IFIOC team is very familiar with and teaches almost daily. Motivational Interviewing which is taught as a whole communication method, or you can learn some of the micro skills behind Motivational Interviewing to aid in your communication. In addition, we teach the stages of change, to better understand where a person is at in their stage of change, and what type of communication method will be most efficient during that stage of change.
The first thing, you, me, the whole world needs to understand about helping others change is-that your opinion doesn’t matter.
I know, that seems so cold. But it’s true. What you think, believe or have ideas regarding someone else’s possible change does not matter.
What you do need to understand is, change is hard. It’s emotional, it’s sometimes painful, it takes time, effort and energy to change-none of those things are “easy”. But most importantly, the person that is thinking about change, has to be motivated to push through all these yucky uncomfortable feelings to make any changes! Change is hard! And any excuse that comes up, is hard NOT to use as an excuse! Plus have you ever had someone tell you that you need to change, what reaction did that cause in you? Maybe some resistance? Defiance? “You’re not the boss of me!” attitude- It happens to us all, so let’s talk about how to avoid the excuses and the defiance so we can help them move forward with their life.
The first step if we want to help support and encourage change for those closest to us, we have to have empathy for the difficulty that lies ahead in their eyes. We have to be non-judgmental, supportive and share our listening ears with them.
Once we can get them sharing about this change, how THEY feel about, it’s hard to do, but we need to not try and solve the problem. Don’t make suggestions, don’t try and give them a step by step path to take, but continue to listen. Don’t judge, don’t suggest things, just listen.
Once they’ve shared their thoughts, feelings and ideas about this change, take a moment to reflect back to them the things you heard them talk about. Also known as summarizing what you’ve heard. This is so beneficial for a few reasons; the speaker gets to re-hear what they said and since you restated it they know you are truly listening.
From there, it’s about helping them live and dream about that change. Asking about what their life will look like when they make this change, and what concerns they have if they don’t make it, even asking about why they love life how it is now is beneficial because the more we do NOT take one side of change, the more they can process both sides of how they are feeling.
Then when the time seems right asking questions like, “Given Summary item #1, and Summary item #2, where do you want to go from here?” or “Wow, you’ve given this a lot of thought, what are your options from here?” or “What next steps do you see to get to where you want to be?”
You’ll notice in this type of interaction, the whole conversation is the speaker focused, we don’t share much insight or ideas, as we are helping them find the solutions within themselves.
Which brings on the topic of Executive Functioning, but that’s a topic we will save for another day!
Next time you have the urge to tell a friend what to do, remind your spouse to work out or remind your kids to take your advice, think about how you structure the conversation. Trying to limit sharing your ideas, and listening more while trying to evoke their thoughts and ideas about the change.