Rafael Stoneman: How to Motivate, Not Dominate

Helping Homeless People
Rafael, the veteran whom we assisted last year in connecting affordable housing and featured for our 2017 End-of-Year Campaign, now uses his experiences to provide insight in the minds of other homeless people.

In Hector Gonzalez’s May 4 article “We’re not ignoring them,” he asked a relevant question about how to help homeless people: “How do you help those that refuse the help?”

The immediate answer is you can’t.

But, as someone who has been on the other end of that question a few times, I suggest that rather than leave it at that, the question to ask ourselves is: How do we help someone take a step toward making a change when they lack motivation?

Motivational interviewing, a highly successful and evidencebased counseling technique, suggests that if a person is resistant, it is because the person trying to help is doing something that creates that resistance. If you weren’t trying to be in charge, what would there be to resist?

Instead, I suggest you try using this simple technique when interacting with someone who is “service resistant.”

Instead of assuming we know what someone else needs, we can start the interaction with another motivational interviewing skill: ask open-ended questions that reflect our willingness to be openminded and receptive.

Instead of: “Can I help you?” which leaves only a yes or a no as a possible answer, consider asking, “How do you feel?” Whatever answer is given, you can show that you genuinely care by actively listening to the person’s answer.

If the answer is: “I don’t know,” reply with something along the lines of, “I don’t know either. Sometimes people act like they have all the answers. Where do we go from here?”

Now you are on equal ground with that person. You aren’t the authority. In this approach, you are establishing trust. Relationships are built on trust.

Some who need help may still refuse to engage or enter into a relationship, no matter how open and respectful we are. But in many cases, by using motivational interviewing—ensuring we who approach are not the ones creating the resistance—trust will be built.

 – Rafael Stoneman, Oxnard

Source: Camarillo Acorn, May 11, 2018 edition