#168 Missing Opportunities to Affirm


If you have been a nutrition counselor for a while, this situation will be familiar to you. The client has an insight or comes up with an idea about how to handle something that is obvious or old hat to you. For example, a client shares a revelation that she could plan out her menus over the weekend to support her making healthier choices. She is pleased with her brilliant plan. You have heard this idea many times and often suggest it to your clients.

Act as if what you do makes a difference.
It does.
William James

If you treat an individual as he is, he will stay as he is,
but if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be,
he will become what he ought to be and could be.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

We are appropriately trained to keep a laser focus on health goals. It’s easy to miss our powerful role in supporting the client’s efficacy along the way. Taking a few seconds to highlight any step or process that supports positive change makes continued progress more likely.

It may be tempting to just accept this client’s plan and move on, or even to point out that many others have found it useful. You would then miss an opportunity to support the natural change process. Each client experiences the nutrition change process in a unique way. It’s all new to her. So treat each idea the client has with respect, and look for what it says about that person’s strengths. Avoid minimizing her efforts, even subtly, by suggesting that this was an obvious step. Affirm first: “You’re working to come up with ideas that will work for you.”  “You’re a creative person when it comes to tweaking your habits.” “You’ve taken the bull the horns and have a plan to support your long-term health goals.” This boosts confidence and encourages the client to continue to take steps forward.

As with all affirmations, take care to avoid “cheerleading.” (more on this in Tip # 63)  Check out Tip #152 for more ideas on strengthening affirmations.

It’s not easy to get to this place of seeing each client with new eyes, especially in the middle of a busy day. What ideas do you have to clear space in yourself to pick up on these opportunities to affirm? Here are a few ideas that work for some:

  • Pause to take one deep breath (or a few) before each client.
  • Remind yourself as you begin with each client to search for at least one effort or strength to affirm.
  • Search for clues that you are taking your client’s efforts and strengths for granted. In my case, one clue is my impatience. There is always something I could have affirmed. When I do, my impatience fades.
Posted in Tips