Health Behavior Change? Try the “Wrong Reason” Approach

Health behavior change is a major challenge for hospitals, providers, med device companies, health insurers, etc. It’s been a topic of well-meaning and often paternalistic debate for centuries- how do you get people to do what’s good for them?

The prevailing – and not very effective approach, is to try to logically convince them. Make a rational argument as to the benefits of changing their behavior and the risks of not. Assume people will digest the information you provided. The light will go on! People will stop the bad behavior and start the good behavior. After all, it makes so much sense, how could they not agree and do what you say?!

We all feel that way when we are doing the persuading. It’s human nature. Whether it’s trying to get a kid to put on sunscreen, an overweight person to stop eating so much, or a patient to upload their blood pressure readings to their doctor, we often persuade with the logical “right reasons.” Which rarely works.

Why? It doesn’t meet people where they’re at. From their perspective, it pushes your agenda, not theirs. It presumes and may even require people to care about what you care about and believe what you believe.

The alternative is to figure out what already motivates them, what they  already care about, what they already believe -then find the common ground with what you want.

Example: Want to promote better nutrition? Maybe most people won’t be motivated by your logical argument about reducing their risk of morbidity and mortality (as exciting as it sounds!). But maybe what you may consider “wrong reasons” – like looking hotter or saving money or fitting in socially, will do the job.

“Wrong reasons” are really the right reasons when they motivate people to do good things. Then, once they’re doing the healthier behavior, they be open to your more rational point of view.

More here: http://www.researchworks.com/YMM_2012/ResearchWorks_YourMarketingMinute_HowToChangeYourEndUsersBehavior_TwoPathsToPersuasion.html