By Jean Rhodes
What is motivational interviewing?
We all know that change is difficult. Motivational interviewing (MI) involves asking questions in ways that help people explore and address their ambivalence toward positive change. Originally developed for addiction treatment, MI has since been adapted for use in a wide range of fields, including education, healthcare, and business. It can also be an extremely powerful tool for mentoring.
MI emphasizes empathy, reflective listening, and open-ended questioning. Rather than imposing solutions or advice, the helper using MI helps the mentee explore their own goals and values, identify potential barriers to change, and develop strategies to overcome those obstacles.
MI in mentoring
As McQuillin and colleagues have long argued, MI can be a powerful tool for fostering self-awareness, promoting personal growth, and encouraging accountability. By asking open-ended questions and actively listening to their mentees’ responses, the mentor using MI can help the mentee clarify their values, identify areas where they would like to grow or change, and develop a plan of action to achieve their goals.
For example, if a mentee is struggling with procrastinating and not getting homework done, the mentor using MI might ask questions like, “What are some of the benefits of managing your time more effectively?” or “How might your days be different if you were able to prioritize your homework and get it done?” Through these types of questions, the mentor can help the mentee explore the potential benefits of change, rather than simply suggesting that they do something differently.
By approaching mentorship with this sort of open, collaborative mindset, mentors can help their mentees overcome challenges and achieve their full potential. Here’s an example of how a mentor might use motivational interviewing to encourage a child to stop fighting with her sibling: