Letter from the President – July 2019 Connect

Dear Friends of EWI of Spokane,

Last month I attended a meeting where Casey Jackson of IFIOC presented on Motivational Interviewing.  According to Psychology Today, “Motivational Interviewing is a counseling method that helps people resolve ambivalent feelings and insecurities to find the internal motivation they need to change their behavior.  It is a practical, empathetic, and short-term process that takes into consideration how difficult it is to make life changes.”  According to Jackson, Motivational Interviewing is “[b]ased on the physics of behavior change.”  (For example, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.)

Motivational Interviewing is widely used in the counseling realm, helping people overcome addictions, for example. But Jackson demonstrated how Motivational Interviewing can be used in an employer-employee relationship setting where the employer is hoping to effect some change in the employee’s behavior (e.g., chronic tardiness).

From my one-hour introduction into this counseling style, here’s my (surely oversimplified) definition of the essence of Motivational Interviewing: It’s an intensely thoughtful conversation between two people – one who needs to change a behavior or make a decision (Person 1) and the other who needs to listen, be supportive, and engage in a non-judgmental dialogue with Person 1 (Person 2).

The conversation between the two begins with identifying the decision or behavior change about which Person 1 is ambivalent (e.g., volunteering to serve on EWI’s board of directors).  The next step is to resolve ambivalence (i.e., make a choice to serve on the board) in light of Person 1’s values and intrinsic motivators (e.g., why did you join EWI, what do you like about its mission, how does it connect with what you value in life and people).  In other words, step two is a classic “weighing the pros and cons” analysis filtered by Person 1’s values and motivators (e.g., what are all the reasons for and against board service and do those reasons align with Person 1’s values).  These two steps require a safe, non-judgmental tone to be effective, which can be a challenge for Person 2. If Person 2 is viewed by Person 1 as judgmental, then Person 1 will push back (think physics) and dig in her/his heels, remaining in a state of ambivalence.

Let’s say the discussion leads Person 1 to decide that saying yes to the decision or change aligns with the person’s values (e.g., Yes, I should volunteer to serve on EWI’s board of directors because I value learning and leadership and the board is a place where I can lead and learn a lot).  The conversation then moves Person 1 from ambivalence to action, taking that step forward to express a commitment to the decision or change (e.g., tell Jennifer Koenig you want to serve on the board).  Once Person 1 takes that first step, the likelihood of an actual change increases (and EWI has awesome Person 1 (you?) as a board member).

As you can see, Motivational Interviewing can be applied to any setting and any decision.  Seriously, though, Jackson’s presentation was intriguing and thought-provoking.  It really got me thinking about how well I listen and communicate to others.  I encourage you to attend one of Jackson’s training sessions (www.ifioc.com) to learn more about Motivational Interviewing from one of its leading experts.  Oh, and I encourage you to serve on EWI of Spokane’s 2019-2020 board of directors, too!

Take care!