By Alison Bell
Are you a good listener? Do you consider yourself someone friends seek out when they have a problem?
You probably have a highly evolved communication style that puts people at ease and makes them want to open up around you.
However, even the best of communicators could use a little brush-up on their skills. At a recent Hillsides meeting, therapists received a handout on 11 “motivational interviewing” talking tips produced by the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Motivational interviewing is a proven tool to help therapists and other clinicians help clients create positive change in their lives, such as managing substance abuse or a chronic mental or physical illness.
As useful as these tools are for clinicians, they’re also very useful for all of us in any conversation. So, the next time you have a heart-to-heart with a good friend or family member, here are some questions to ask yourself. You might be surprised at your answers, and how they help you become an even better listener.
1. Do I listen more than I talk?
Or am I talking more than I listen?
2. Do I keep myself sensitive and open to this person’s issues, whatever they may be?
Or am I talking about what I think the problem is?
3. Do I invite this person to talk about and explore his/her own ideas for change?
Or am I jumping to conclusions and possible solutions?
4. Do I encourage this person to talk about his/her reasons for not changing?
Or am I forcing him/her to talk only about change?
5. Do I ask permission to give my feedback?
Or am I presuming that my ideas are what he/she really needs to hear?
6. Do I reassure this person that ambivalence to change is normal?
Or am I telling him/her to take action and push ahead for a solution?
7. Do I help this person identify successes and challenges from his/her past and relate them to present change efforts?
Or am I encouraging him/her to ignore or get stuck on old stories?
8. Do I seek to understand this person?
Or am I spending a lot of time trying to convince him/her to understand me and my ideas?
9. Do I summarize for this person what I am hearing?
Or am I just summarizing what I think?
10. Do I value this person’s opinion more than my own?
Or am I giving more value to my viewpoint?
11. Do I remind myself that this person is capable of making his/her own choices?
Or am I assuming that he/she is not capable of making good choices?
To learn more about the Center for Evidence-Based Practices or motivational interviewing or to download a quick guide for motivational interviewing, the “MI Reminder Card: Am I Doing This Right?, please visit www.centerforebp.case.edu.
Alison Bell serves as the associate director of communications and marketing in Hillsides advancement services and is an author and writing instructor.