Motivational interviewing: bringing empathy to school

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A school whose staff and students know how to listen and speak to each other – showing empathy and understanding – is likely to be a happy place, Andy Williams says. He explains how the technique of motivational interviewing can be used as a positive way to encourage people to make changes

Do you want a culture of openness?

Simon is struggling, finding it tough to control the behaviour in his classroom. His line manager, Laura, suggests that they have a chat after school.

At the meeting, Laura’s approach is a positive one, in the style of a curious guide. She is careful not to slip into the role of rescuer, sympathiser, expert adviser or interrogator. She simply listens for feelings and needs, and shows understanding and empathy. Using open questions, affirmation, reflection and summary, she allows the conversation to unfold.

Eventually, after a bit of careful and skilled reflection from Laura, Simon says: “Yes ...

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