Motivational Interviewing Explained

Curious about Motivational Interviewing? Learn how this powerful technique can enhance your motivation and confidence for change.

Motivational interviewing

Ever felt like you’re having an argument with yourself about making positive changes? Enter Motivational Interviewing (MI).

It's the life coaching technique that turns that inner debate into a productive conversation. Let’s explore what MI is, how it’s used, its benefits, and why it might just be the secret sauce you need for personal growth.

What is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational Interviewing is a collaborative, goal-oriented style of communication. It’s designed to strengthen personal motivation and commitment to a specific goal.

Think of it as having a motivational debate with a twist: it’s all about you finding your own reasons for change.

MI is based on four key principles:

Express Empathy: Understanding your feelings without judgment.
Develop Discrepancy: Highlighting the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
Roll with Resistance: Avoiding arguments and inviting new perspectives.
Support Self-Efficacy: Encouraging belief in your ability to change.

These principles make MI less about being told what to do and more about discovering your own motivation for making changes.

MI Coach

How is Motivational Interviewing Used?

Motivational Interviewing isn’t just for life coaches and therapists. It’s used in various fields like healthcare, addiction counseling, and even business. Here’s how it works in practice:

Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions are the bread and butter of MI. They encourage you to think deeply and articulate your thoughts.

Examples of Effective Open-Ended Questions:

“What brings you here today?”
“How do you feel about your current situation?”
“What changes would you like to see?”

I once had a client who felt stuck in their career. Instead of giving advice, I asked, “What would your ideal job look like?”

This simple question opened the floodgates. They realized their passion for teaching and started working towards a career in education.

Reflective Listening

Reflective listening is like holding up a mirror to your thoughts. It shows you that you’re heard and understood, which is incredibly validating.

Tips for Practicing Reflective Listening:

Paraphrase: Repeat back what you heard in your own words. “So, you’re saying you feel overwhelmed by your workload?”
Reflect Feelings: Acknowledge emotions. “It sounds like you’re frustrated with your current situation.”
Summarize: Recap what’s been said to show understanding. “To sum up, you want to make a change but are unsure where to start.”

I once had a client who felt lost in their fitness journey. By reflecting their feelings of frustration and desire for progress, they felt understood and motivated to create a new workout plan.

Affirmations and Positive Reinforcement

Everyone loves a good pep talk - especially me. Affirmations and positive reinforcement are about acknowledging strengths and celebrating successes, no matter how small.

How to Use Affirmations:

Be Genuine: Sincerity is key. “You’ve done an amazing job sticking to your workout plan this week.”
Highlight Strengths: Focus on specific qualities. “Your dedication and persistence are truly impressive.”
Encourage Progress: Celebrate milestones. “Reaching this goal is a fantastic achievement. Keep it up!”

A client of mine once struggled with self-doubt. Regular affirmations about their progress and resilience boosted their confidence significantly.

They went from doubting themselves to smashing their goals with newfound self-belief.


The Benefits of Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing isn’t just another buzzword. It has real benefits that can transform your approach to personal growth and change.

Enhanced Self-Motivation

MI helps you discover your own reasons for change, making the motivation more personal and powerful. When you understand why you want to change, you’re more likely to follow through.

Reduced Resistance

By rolling with resistance instead of confronting it, MI helps reduce defensiveness. This approach encourages a more open and constructive dialogue about change.

Improved Self-Efficacy

Supporting self-efficacy means building your confidence in your ability to change. MI techniques like affirmations and reflective listening help reinforce your belief in yourself.

Better Outcomes

Research shows that MI can lead to better outcomes in various settings, from healthcare to education. It’s a proven method for facilitating meaningful, lasting change.

Tips And Examples

As a seasoned life coach, I’ve seen firsthand how MI can make a difference. Here are some more examples and practical tips for you to use MI:

Example: Overcoming Career Stagnation

One client felt stuck in a dead-end job. Through MI, we explored their feelings about work and their aspirations.

Open-ended questions like “What do you enjoy most about your job?” and reflective listening helped them identify their passion for project management.

They set a goal to pursue certification and eventually landed a job they loved.

Tip: Use a Journal

Keeping a journal can enhance your MI practice. Write down your thoughts, feelings, and responses to open-ended questions.

Reflect on your progress and celebrate your successes. It’s a great way to stay engaged with the process.

Example: Improving Health Habits

Another client struggled with unhealthy eating habits. Using MI, we explored their doubts about change.

Questions like “What are the benefits of eating healthier?” helped them articulate their reasons for wanting to change.

Reflective listening validated their struggles, and affirmations boosted their confidence. They gradually adopted healthier habits and saw significant improvements in their well-being.


Motivational Interviewing is a powerful technique for fostering personal growth and change. It takes some practice doing solo, but is easier with another.

By using open-ended questions, reflective listening, and affirmations, MI helps you discover your own motivation and build confidence in your ability to change.

So, what’s your next move? Will you start asking yourself open-ended questions, practice reflective listening, or maybe seek out a coach trained in MI?

Whatever you choose, remember that the power to change lies within you. Embrace the process, stay curious, and let Motivational Interviewing guide you on your journey to a better you.

And remember, even small steps can lead to big changes. Now go out there and start your motivational conversation. It starts with you!

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