At a recent training, I was asked for examples of characteristics to affirm. The trainee was having trouble noticing strengths in her clients and wanted some ideas to get her started. I’ve included a list below.
Things do not change: We change.
Henry David Thoreau
It takes two to speak truth –
One to speak, and another to hear.
First, a reminder about powerful affirmations: Affirming does not mean making anything up or just generally praising. We notice the client’s own values, efforts, or strengths that are innately there that will help him move toward change, and we point them out to the client.
Characteristics of successful changers to find and affirm *:
- Careful about health
- Can see possibilities
- Don’t give up
- Follow through
- Follow professional advice
- Have integrity
- Keep commitments
- Know self well
- Taken seriously
When you notice any of these characteristics, you can reflect them, thereby increasing confidence and the likelihood of further efforts. Many of these words can be used this way: “You are someone who is…” or “You value…” Try out some of the words with these sentence stems to see how they sound.
You can also slip these words into your reflections of the client’s efforts. Notice the difference between these statements:
- “It is great that you kept your food records this week.”
- “I am impressed that you kept your food records this week.“
- “Your commitment is clear with your record-keeping this week.”
In the first two, you are pointing out the client’s effort, and yet each one keeps you in the picture. The final one is stronger because it is an observation of fact. You make it stronger by adding a positive characteristic, in this case, commitment.
* Adapted from a list by Bill Miller, one of the developers of motivational interviewing.