Women Making a Difference in Men's Health:
Avoid the Downside, Experience the Upside of Caring
As a motivational guide to men, you can support him in using the MHH guidebook. He can learn how to minimize the upside of his unhealthy habit, maximize the downside of his unhealthy habit, minimize the downside of changing his behavior, and maximize the upside of changing his behavior. But first, you need to experience this learning process for yourself. This will help you let go of the health advisor role and learn how to become an effective motivational guide.
Health Advisor: Downside to Caring
Giving advice about changing unhealthy habits may have no impact on him, or it can even make things worse. In such situations, it's like water off a duck's back, or he may strike back in anger. Sometimes, he may feel like you are interfering in his health. You can end up carrying a burden of frustrations if you continue to actively care.
You still keep hoping that you'll find another way that will make a difference. You feel stuck about what might work. Even though it is not your intention, he may view your behavior as nagging. He feels and behaves as though you're trying to control him. It can feel like a tug of war. When you pull, so does he, but in the opposite direction. And still, nothing changes.
It is tempting to give up altogether. But this is not easy because it's difficult to let go of caring. Despite your good intentions, you still get into conflicts about health issues. You let go of these health issues for a while, but they resurface again. Before you know it, you find yourself locked into reoccurring conflicts that go nowhere.
You find that the best way to prevent these non-productive conflicts is to avoid any health discussions. You both put down the rope and go your separate ways.
Motivational Guide: Upside to Caring
First, stop taking on the health advisor role when it is not working. In this role, you can take on too much responsibility for improving his health. You run the risk of falling into the "fix-it" role trap: confronting and advising him to change his unhealthy habits. With this approach, he can feel as though you are imposing your views and values about health onto him. If you persist with this approach and fail to make a difference, you run the very real risk of caregiver burnout.
You both have different views about the unhealthy habit. You maximize the risks and harms of his behavior and he minimizes them.
But you can use your differences to make a difference. To learn about how to make a difference in the world, Mohandas Gandhi emphasized beginning with yourself: Be the change that you wish to see in the world.
You will work more effectively with him if you learn how to improve your own health habits first. Learn about and use change concepts on yourself so that you understand how to change from being a health advisor to becoming a health guide. This does not mean that you abandon caring, but you use your caring to influence how you work together, without trying to control the outcome.
Instead of a tug of war, you put down the rope and stay together. Try to understand why he is pulling in the opposite direction-why he wants to remain the same. This can open up a discussion about his difficulties in changing his unhealthy habits, without any pressure to change. In effect, this is an invitation to for him to explore his view and values about his unhealthy habits, without having to defend them.
With this tact, he begins to feel as though he has a guide who is working with him, rather than against him. Instead of convincing him to change, he takes responsibility for deciding whether to explore and change his views about minimizing the risks and harms and maximizing the benefits of his unhealthy habit. You can support him with this exploration and let him choose his goals. In time, he is more likely to become motivated to change for himself, and not because he is trying to please you.
Change Yourself before Helping Others
Recognizing and lowering your resistance to change is essential before trying to motivate yourself to change your unhealthy habits. Otherwise, you will experience a tug of war between the good intentions in your head (I think that I should change) and the feelings in your heart (but I don't feel like it).
Learn how your head and heart can work together
on change, and not against one another.
U-turn your emotional resistance into effective
and powerful motivation. Improve your own
healthy habits so that your family can learn
from your experience. Become an effective
motivational guide so that you can assist
family members in improving their health