Using Motivational Interviewing at Retail

Using Motivational Interviewing at Retail

September 26, 2018
Shari Steinbach
Business Skills

By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor

Helping individuals adapt healthy behaviors can be a frustrating business, as most dietitians know and any tool that can make this process more effective is welcome. Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a proven counseling method that can help people resolve ambivalent feelings to find the internal motivation they need to change their behavior. The process involves a practical and empathetic facilitative style that takes into consideration how difficult it is to make life changes. This technique helps people become motivated to change negative behaviors and retail dietitians may find this intervention helpful in a variety of workplace situations. 

The main focus of motivational interviewing is to evoke a conversation about change and commitment. By listening and reflecting back a person’s thoughts, an individual can hear their own reasons and motivations expressed back to them. Here are the 4 core principles for motivational interviewing:

  1. Show empathy – Acknowledge the difficulties the other person is experiencing while listening and normalizing their feelings of ambivalence. 
  2. Amplify discrepancy – Identify the discrepancies you see between a person's goal and his behavior in a non-judgmental way.
  3. Roll with resistance – Instead of ordering someone to make a change, help individuals acknowledge the consequences of not changing their behavior. 
  4. Support self-efficacy – Find a small goal that a person can commit to changing and support their personal responsibility in making change.  

Ways to use motivational interviewing at retail:

  • To manage existing team members – An unmotivated employee can hold a whole department back. Use MI to move an individual away from a state of indecision or uncertainty and towards motivation to make positive decisions and accomplish established goals. Motivational interviewing is a respectful way to help members of your team weigh the pros and cons of change, while also addressing their concerns up front. The result will be greater job satisfaction and retention along with stronger team dynamics. 
  • During a health consultation – If you provide wellness consultations to consumers and/or store associates, use motivational interviewing to help them discover their own interest in considering and making a change in their life (i.e.: diet, exercise). This style of consulting has been shown to increase client participation rates and could result in stronger customer loyalty. A sample question sequence may go something like this: What do you know about how your diet affects your diabetes? Are you interested in learning more? Followed by identifying a small goal that a person can commit to changing and being responsible for.

No matter where individuals start in their readiness to change behavior, you are on the right track when your communication enhances commitment and change talk from the individual. Use motivational interviewing on an ongoing basis in your daily work to continue reviewing barriers and obstacles to change that can help shoppers and employees be their best.

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