How do you get to the why of someone’s motivation for change? WHY is a tricky word since asking why can be shaming depending on how you frame it. Rather than asking “why do you do that (addiction, behavior challenges, etc.)” try asking “when things are working what helps” or “what makes this change important now?” We can get to “the why” in other ways.
People make decisions based on their values so reflecting values (even if it’s a guess) can be helpful. For example, reflecting:
- “You want to be an example to your family” (someone struggling with an addiction who has children)
- “You care about your mobility so you can travel” (someone struggling with staying on track with diet or exercise)
- “You don’t want to be out of breath every time you walk up the stairs” (someone struggling with smoking cessation)
Even if the person has not told you those values it’s okay to make an assumption if you have the spirit of Motivational Interviewing (MI) (partnership, compassion, acceptance, evocation) and if it’s true it can move the conversation more quickly towards change or “change talk.”
If it’s not true, the person will tell you why it’s not which can open the conversation further about their true “why” or the reason they came to be having a conversation with you in the first place so it’s a win either way.
Usually values outrival ambivalence with behavior change and many times someone does not realize their behavior goes against their values till it’s pointed out to them. Most people want to walk in and towards their purpose in life. How you frame that conversation can move them in that direction to truly get to “the WHY” without ever having to ask…and that’s a picture worth looking at!