Monday, 18 May 2015

Persuasion is not the way to changing behaviours

Harvard Business Review’s tweet links back to their own blog where you’ll find a post signed by Art Markman, a professor at the University of Texas and author of "Smart Thinking"  a book about traditional topics of marketing on how to change attitudes and ultimately sell more and for this reason the first thing I thought of when reading the promotional post of the book was that these are issues specific to the commercial world, so far from clinical management. But then I gave it another try and suddenly I found an interest in the author’s approach to the topic.

To be precise, in our training as doctors (also true for nurses) we learn to handle drugs or other therapeutic techniques. This is part of what we’re supposed to know, but we’re also told, by the way, that for the people’s health even more effective than curing is having the ability to influence the health determinants although on this, interestingly, we don’t receive any preparation. Note that when we’re dealing with a person with unhealthy habits, the more practiced technique is persuasion, a technique that, as the psychologists know, is ultimately very inefficient.

Art Markman says: if you want to change a person’s attitude, you must design a comprehensive plan together, you must help him/her define goals that they understands as attainable, you should design a daily plan for continuous improvement, you must prepare them for overcoming temptations, you ought to encourage their environment to adjust to the set objectives and, finally, you ought to help them interact with others who are going through the same situation.

This is nothing new, and in fact there are specialized units that are based on this methodology such as substance abuse or obesity, but I chose this reference of Markman’s to highlight that the daily professional activities of doctors and nurses is full of dissuasive tips and I believe that a little more skills in more effective techniques would serve us well.

You see, this post just wants to persuade you to read this book.

Jordi Varela


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