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Three Ways to Wipe Out Wishy-Washy Talk

by Sara Correnti, Manager, Health & Welfare Member Wellness Products

On our Wellness Champion call in March we reviewed ambivalence – the state where people talk about change but they also talk about staying just where they are with their habits. As a coach to them, you may find it confusing. What can you do to help them move from being wishy-washy to being willing to take a healthier step?

People in the ambivalent state needs three things you as a Wellness Champion are perfectly suited to deliver:

  1. Get them to argue for why they don’t want to change. It seems backwards, but sometimes when you ask them to campaign for their bad habits, they start to see they really are capable of (and desire) something different.
  2. “OARS” you listening? OARS is an acronym to help you in your responses when talking with those who are ambivalent.

    Open-ended questions. Avoid yes/no questions in order to evoke more details from them or to prevent leading them in the conversation about their health habits.

    Examples:
    [Open-ended] What is your biggest health priority right now?
    [Close-ended] You care about your health, right?

    Affirmation. Affirmations build confidence. Affirmations are positive statements about one’s character or values that also highlight his or her strengths or efforts*.

    Reflection. Reflecting back what you hear from them not only conveys to them that you are listening, but it also can make them hear what they are saying outwardly. Sometimes we say things and our actions don’t line up, but we don’t know that until we have someone (kindly) reflect it back to us.

    Summarize. Summarizing is a great way to pause the conversation and let your workers know you are listening. Similar to Reflection, this can help communicate back to workers what they are saying, but also ties the conversation together. It’s a “Cliff’s Notes” version of what you’ve talked about.
  3. That DARN CAT. Another acronym to remember; this one guides you in knowing where someone is in terms of readiness to change.

    D- desire

    A- ability

    R- reason

    N- need

    These all convey a sense of preparation or determination. Your primary task is to talk through strategies with them that will make them want to move forward toward change.

    C- commitment

    A- activation

    T- taking steps/action

    These statements mean they are taking action (or just about to!). You can help them by being encouraging, helping them plan for barriers (removing them when you can) and assisting in the change/strategy.
Stages of Change

From challenges to biometric screenings to lunch-and-learns, there is a lot that you can do to promote health and wellness in your ministry. However, the simple responses you have when in casual conversations can often do more for your workers than the special events. 

* Clifford, L. Curtis. Motivational Interviewing in Nutrition and Fitness. Gilford Press. 2016.