Introduce self and topic. Today, we are going to talk about how you can become more effective as a nutrition educator. We will examine tools that you can use to become a person of influence. After this time together we hope you will return to your clinic turbocharged with excitement about the possibilities that exist in changing nutrition and physical activity behaviors in your clients.
Let’s take a look at a client session at a WIC clinic – see if this looks and sounds familiar?
Okay, we all know that’s not how it’s really done in WIC clinics, or is it? Are we as effective as we could be at changing behaviors? So today we’re going to talk about how you can become a more effective change agent—how you can have more impact on your clients’ eating and activity patterns. Before we attempt to change the world, we need to first focus on changing ourselves.
For many years, educators believed that if you gave people facts, they would make changes. If only people KNEW about the impact of obesity on their health they would be more active and eat healthy. We poured on the facts and presented logical arguments with little success. We were so convinced that behavior change would follow knowledge that sometimes we blamed clients for being unmotivated when it didn’t happen, rather than accept the blame ourselves for not giving the clients what they need. Does this sound familiar? When we ask ourselves who is effective in getting people to change, one answer is the marketing and advertising industry. We can take a lesson from successful marketers and apply their science-based research to WIC.
We are going to discuss several tools for becoming a person of influence. These tools are really just common sense. They’re simple, practical and relevant behaviors that you can apply tomorrow morning. Yet they all have been proven to be effective. The potential benefits you’ll reap from these small changes are nothing short of staggering. Take the challenge to slip out of your comfortable, velvet rut and make some changes. The result? You’ll recapture the passion and dedication that brought you originally to WIC. Sounds like a fair trade!? OK, let’s get started. Here’s the first Tool of Influence: #1 Be likeable. The number one rule for getting people to do what you want is to get them to like you. Common sense, right? But imagine how different our time with clients would be if our number one objective was to get the client to like us rather than fill out forms completely or give them facts. The research is clear: People don’t listen, reflect or act on advice from people they don’t like. If we want to be an effective behavior change agent, we need to be likeable.
Studies with WIC clients revealed the following: Clients want you to greet them when they arrive at the WIC clinic—as someone who is more than a number. That makes them feel valuable . Clients want you to look at them, not your computer, when talking with them. That makes them feel important . Clients want you to honor your time commitments to them. If you ask them to be on time, they want you to do the same. That makes them feel honored . And clients want you to offer advice, not dictate, always remembering that they are the parent. That makes them feel capable . When you make them feel valuable, important, honored and capable, they like you better. And when they like you, they’re more likely to listen and act on your advice.
Here’s another action that makes you more likeable: Accept and like your clients. We communicate what we hold in our hearts. If you’re harboring any judgment about your clients’ lifestyles or behaviors, your clients know what you think. We think we’re masters at masking our judgment but body language, tone of voice or our eyes reveal what’s in our hearts. If your clients don’t live up to your expectations, they feel it. If you think that your clients are different than you, they know it. What we feel in our hearts is clearly communicated to others. The Oscars for Best Acting rarely go to WIC educators. Being judgmental is a tough issue—but it’s a big payoff for WIC if we can accept and love clients as they are.
Refrain from asking sensitive questions. WIC clients are sometimes sensitive to questions about the paternity of their children. Since this is a food and nutrition program, they are confused when asked if all their children have the same father or ask if the child’s father is involved in their life. Since this is unlikely to dramatically alter your food recommendations, it’s best to stay off the topic of paternity or father involvement unless THEY bring it up. Another topic that is especially sensitive is the number or timing of children. Your client may be struggling—or overjoyed—with the birth of three children in three years. In either case, it’s not helpful for the WIC educator to comment on the number of children or timing of the pregnancies. Comments like “What, you’re having another baby!?” make you less likeable. The WIC clinic is a source of food and nutrition information, not family planning advice.
Smile. Smiles convey happiness, confidence, enthusiasm and ACCEPTANCE. It’s the most cost and time effective tool available that by itself could revitalize WIC! I’m talking about a full smile on a happy face with eye contact, not one of those forced courtesy smiles with the partial “lips only” half smile while looking at a computer screen. Be positive. Have a happy outlook and perspective. Be in a good mood. And smile. Smiling makes you likeable—and being likeable makes you influential.
Ready for more actions that will make you more likeable? Make your clients feel comfortable, welcome and relaxed. It’s not easy being a Mom. We need to try to make every client feel comfortable, welcome and relaxed at each visit.
Try some of these simple steps tomorrow: Tell your client that you’re happy to see her. Thank her for coming. Give a sincere compliment. Tell her she’s doing a great job. Show an interest in her personally. Talk to her children. Listen to her. Share something personal about yourself. It’s easier to be influential when your clients are relaxed and comfortable. POSSIBLE DISCUSSION: Ask participants for additional techniques that they can use to help WIC clients be more comfortable and feel more welcome.
There’s one action that makes us more likeable—but it can be difficult for some health educators. Establish a common bond between you and your client. The challenge may lie in our training. All Nutrition Education 101 classes must have included a section on professional conduct that told us to keep a distance from our clients. This may not be the best strategy to change behavior. It’s important to be “real” with your clients—and to find the common bond between you and your clients. The persuasion research shows dramatic results when people establish the common bond first. Here’s an example: Solicitors working a college campus doubled the donations when they said, “I’m a student, too.” I’m sure you’ve heard people ask new acquaintances where they’re from, where they went to school, or where they live—all in a quest for that common bond. And the response is almost the same: warmer feelings to that person once you determine you share something in common.
WIC educators can increase their influence with statements like: “ I’m a mom too.” “ I feel pressed for time too.” “ I struggle with my weight too.” “ My child was a little high at that age too.” You may be worried how you can remain credible with your clients if you’re like most people and are not perfect. Rest assured. Being human and admitting your mistakes and challenges doesn’t decrease credibility. It makes you more likeable. So it’s OK to be less than perfect—it makes you more likeable. Your client will be more open to your suggestions if she knows you’re sharing the same struggle as she is. Know-it-all, perfect health educators aren’t as influential as “real” people who are learning and growing.
Another way to be likeable is to: Be positive. Your clients will appreciate it if you present information in a positive way, even if the news itself isn’t really positive. Take obesity for example. Telling a mother that her child is obese could result in feelings of anger, denial or frustration. So how can you let a mother know that her child is obese? Think back to the video of a few minutes ago, of our friend Mynra, who is also a WIC counselor, and now imagine yourself as the client. This was Myrna’s approach : “ I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your child exceeds the healthy range on the weight charts. As you may know, obesity can be life threatening. Overweight children tend to become overweight or obese adults. In addition to significant health risks, the obese child is at risk for diabetes and heart disease. Everything in your life needs to change now—what you eat, how you do physical activity, and so on. I’m very sorry to have to share this news with you today.” As a client… what did you hear and how did you feel? Any negative feelings, did you feel attacked? And what “health risks” was Myrna talking about anyway? What does THAT mean??
Now listen again: “I’m happy to share good news with you today. Your daughter Sierra appears to be well and happy. And I’m so glad that you came in today because it appears that Sierra’s weight is a little high right now. She’s not alone—lots of children are edging higher in the weight category. The good news is that with a few small changes over time, Sierra can slip back into the healthy growth category. Any changes you can make to help Sierra will help you and the rest of your family. Not only will you be healthier, you’ll all have more energy and vitality to get more fun out of life. Sierra can’t thank you today for taking such good care of her, but I can. You’re a great Mom! Now imagine yourself as the client again. Which way would you prefer to learn that your child is overweight? Basically, the same information was shared in both scenarios but with an entirely different approach. Most people would prefer the second approach. Be positive and upbeat whenever possible but especially when presenting news that may not be positive.
Avoid words that have harsh or negative connotations. Avoid using harsh words like obesity, especially when softer words such as “healthier growth” will do.
Present the client’s problem as temporary. Whenever possible, present the client's problem as temporary. Your clients are more likely to want to make changes if they see a problem as temporary. If they think a problem is a life sentence they may think “why bother to listen or make changes—it won’t make a difference.” For example: “Sierra’s weight is a little too high right now but I’m sure we can give you some help to quickly move her in the right direction.”
Tool # 2 To becoming a person of influence: Give them something. Ever had a waiter give you a few mints with your check at a restaurant? That’s not a random act of kindness, that’s a very deliberate action that increases tips. Researchers find that waiters can dramatically increase their tips if they give people some candies or mints with the check. People want to return the favor by adding a bit more to the tip. A small, simple act, but one that has a payoff for the waiter. Here’s another example of how the “Reciprocity Rule” works. Insurance companies found that mailing a $5 “gift” check along with an insurance survey was twice as effective as offering a $50 payment for sending back a completed survey. Again, people want to return the favor of the “gift” check by returning the survey. More surveys were returned and for a fraction of the incentive because of the “Reciprocity Rule”, resulting in a big win for the insurance company. Here’s a funny example of other “rule of reciprocity” research. Researchers sent Christmas cards randomly to people they had never met or even heard of. Cards came pouring back from those people. Even though the Christmas card recipients had never heard of the people who sent the card, they took the time and effort to return the card to these complete unknowns. So how does this apply to WIC? How can YOU apply the Rule of Reciprocity and be more effective at changing eating and activity behaviors of your clients? Give your clients something they value.
Give clients something they value. The opening video showed an overwhelmed client leaving with things that were given to her at a WIC clinic. And now we are saying to give them something. Clients, like most people, value things that are specific to their needs and interests. They don’t place as much value on things that are given out randomly to anyone who happens to appear, kind of like the State Fair. Limiting access to a message causes the individual to want to receive it more. Also, making the materials or messages seem targeted just to them makes them more interesting. Clients are more likely to read and act on information if it appears to be given to them as a unique person. Limited information is simply more persuasive.
Tool # 3 To becoming a person of influence: Give them exclusive information. I know what you’re thinking. “It is not possible to give exclusive information to all the clients in my caseload.” Well, you’re right, but you don’t have to develop “exclusive” information, just make it feel that way to your client. Here are some examples of how you can make information feel exclusive.
Make your information, tips and messages feel “exclusive.” While it’s easy for educators to pick one topic for the entire month—like the 5-A-Day message—it doesn’t help the client feel like the topic or information is exclusive to them. Also, if you’re bored saying it, she’ll be bored listening. And who wouldn’t be bored after saying the same thing all month! So drop those “one-size-fits-all” nutrition lectures. They really don’t fit anyone at all. Instead, start with questions that allow the client to determine what “exclusive” information she’ll get that day. Use simple questions like “Annie seems so happy! You’re obviously doing many things well. But are there any concerns you have about Annie that I may be able to help you with today?” Pause long enough for your client to think—and then listen. Silence is golden when it comes to behavior change. Let the client know you really want to help HER by giving her the space and time to control your time together. And sessions that are tailored to the clients’ needs and wants are more likely to result in behavior change than generic ones.
Make your information, tips and messages feel “exclusive.” Here’s another simple idea to consider. Write your client’s name at the top of information sheets—or that of her child. Also, add your name and number in case she has any questions about the materials. That simple act makes her feel like it’s for her instead of the masses. After talking with your client, ask her to write her own action plan. Also, people are more likely to act on solutions that they identify and choose. Then ask the client to say what she intends to do—this takes her commitment to a whole new level.
Tool #4 To becoming a person of influence: Use emotion when talking to your client. Share the emotional benefits of the change along with health facts and logic. Experts suggest that 90% of decisions are based on emotion. So it’s essential to use emotion when trying to influence others to make behavior changes. And what topics arouse emotions more than motherhood and children? Most of nutrition education materials miss the mark because they continue to focus on facts and logic. Information that targets only the mind, not emotions, is quickly dismissed. If we want to be influential in changing behaviors, use emotion. Lots of it. And just add enough logic and facts so that clients can justify their action.
Use emotion. Aristotle had this important concept nailed many years ago. He said you needed three things in order to be persuasive with others. 1st, you have to have credibility—and the WIC program has that in spades. 2nd, you need EMOTION. That’s right, emotion is more important than logic. And 3rd, you need logic—just enough logic to allow people an answer when asked why they made the change.
Feelings are more important than facts. That’s right—and absolutely the opposite of what we were taught in nutrition education classes. But that’s a powerful secret that advertisers use every day to get people to change behaviors—and buy their products. Our effectiveness will soar when we build emotion into our materials and messages. Here’s how this could be applied in the WIC clinic. First you describe the desired action—like “Take a walk around the block every night with your family.” Next, talk about the emotional benefits of taking that action. Maybe something like “That daily walk is what makes lifelong memories for your child. That’s when you can escape the world and take time to be a family. It’s the glue that holds families together in these troubled times.” And third, add just enough facts or logic to give them a rational reason for taking action. Perhaps this might serve as the dose of logic: “Not only will a daily walk be the tie that binds your family together, it really makes a difference in keeping everyone at a healthy weight.” To be more influential, appeal to the heart.
Talk about the emotional benefits of taking action. When you get back to the clinic, consider giving your educational materials the “heart test.” Do your materials clearly and specifically state the emotional benefits of taking action? Do they appeal to the client’s heart as well as her head? As you develop new materials, remember that feelings are more important than facts. Add only enough facts so that your client can justify her actions to herself and others.
Tool #5 To becoming a person of influence: Let them know what others are doing. Emotions are powerful tools used to change behaviors. But people are also influenced by the actions of others. That’s why moms compare their child’s milestones like walking and talking—they want to be sure their children are at least the same as others. That’s why we are more likely to visit a restaurant or see a movie that someone else has seen than one that you don’t know anything about. We’re all influenced by the actions of others. How can you do this in the WIC clinic? Perhaps you could tell your client positive things that happened to you when you took the same action—in other words, offer your personal testimony. Or share the personal testimony of another WIC mom who tried the action. This could be as simple as sharing a tip another client shared with you. Let them know that many successful moms are already taking the action and that it’s exciting that they want to join in too. This will stimulate compliance and increase behavior changes. You can do even more to strengthen your influence at this point. Simply ask the client to do you a favor and give them a reason for your request. Example: Ask them to try your tips and get back with them next time about how they worked. Tell them the reason for your request: You know they worked for you but want to be sure they will work for others as well. Pause after asking the question and allow them to respond. If they respond with a yes, they will very likely do it. Public commitments are a powerful way to increase compliance. It makes us feel accountable for following through. We are truest to our decisions if we have bound ourselves to them publicly.
Tool #6 To becoming a person of influence: Get them to make a commitment. Have you ever said these words? “I gave them my word.” “I promised.” Or “I do what I say.” The drive to be consistent between what we say and what we do is powerful—and a central motivator of behavior. The next tool of influence is: Get them to make a commitment. Let me give you an example. Suppose you asked your client this question: “Do you think mothers can do anything to help their children be active everyday?” Your client is likely to answer yes. Your response might be something like this: “I’m glad to hear that. Can you give me some ideas of what moms can do?” Once the mother has publicly stated her opinion and identified ways to do it, there’s a natural tendency for her behavior to be consistent with her stand. Commitment is the key.
Ask questions. Getting the client to say what she intends to do takes her commitment to a whole new level. Your goal is to get her to say the words. Try questions like: “ What will you do first?” “ When do you think you can get started?” “ How do you think this will work for you and your family?” That helps her to see herself doing what she says she will do.
Try verbal confirmations. Research shows that confirming what your client has indicated that they will do increases the likelihood that they will actually do it. A 1989 research study showed that blood drive reminder calls ending with “We’ll count on seeing you then, okay?” increased the show rate 20%. Add your own verbal confirmation to increase your influence. Try phrases like: “ Are you willing to give (action) a try?” “ Can I count on you to give me feedback on (action) next time?” “ Will your family get to try (action) this month?”
Tool #7 To becoming a person of influence: End the visit on a high note. After applying all these tools of influence, your client is primed for making significant changes in her behaviors. But there’s one last thing you can do to make sure the experience is positive for both you and the client: End the visit on a high note. And don’t forget to add emotion! Here are some examples of closing statements that allow your client to leave the WIC clinic glowing with success: You’re a great parent! I am inspired by all you do for your children. Thanks for coming today. I can’t wait to see you next week to hear about your latest successes with Christopher. I just love visiting with you each month. Will you let me know how your family liked that recipe?
Becoming a Person of Influence
“ Everything in your life must change…NOW.” TRT 0:44 Vignette 1
<ul><li>How to be a more effective change agent... </li></ul><ul><li>How to have more impact... </li></ul>
Tool of Influence #1: Be likeable. <ul><li>Actions that make you likeable </li></ul><ul><li>Accept and like your clients. </li></ul>
Tool of Influence #1: Be likeable. <ul><li>Actions that make you likeable </li></ul><ul><li>Refrain from asking sensitive questions. </li></ul>Are you having ANOTHER baby? Do both of your children have the same father?
Tool of Influence #1: Be likeable. <ul><li>Actions that make you likeable </li></ul><ul><li>Smile. </li></ul>
Tool of Influence #1: Be likeable. <ul><li>Actions that make you likeable </li></ul><ul><li>Make your client feel comfortable, welcome and relaxed. </li></ul>
Try some of these simple steps tomorrow: <ul><li>Tell your client that you’re happy to see her. </li></ul><ul><li>Thank her for coming. </li></ul><ul><li>Give a sincere compliment. </li></ul><ul><li>Tell her she’s doing a great job. </li></ul><ul><li>Show an interest in her personally. </li></ul><ul><li>Talk to her children. </li></ul><ul><li>Listen to her. </li></ul><ul><li>Share something personal about yourself. </li></ul>
Tool of Influence #1: Be likeable. <ul><li>Actions that make you likeable </li></ul><ul><li>Establish a common bond between you and your client. </li></ul>
WIC educators can increase their influence with statements like: <ul><li>“I’m a mom, too.” </li></ul><ul><li>“I feel pressed for time, too.” </li></ul><ul><li>“I struggle with my weight, too.” </li></ul><ul><li>“My child’s weight was a little high at that age, too.” </li></ul>
Tool of Influence #1: Be likeable. <ul><li>Actions that make you likeable </li></ul><ul><li>Be positive. </li></ul>
Tool of Influence #1: Be likeable. <ul><li>Negative approach… client may feel attacked. </li></ul><ul><li>Positive approach…client is more likely to listen and make changes. </li></ul>
Tool of Influence #1: Be likeable. <ul><li>Actions that make you likeable </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid words that have harsh or negative connotations. </li></ul>
Tool of Influence #1: Be likeable. <ul><li>Actions that make you likeable </li></ul><ul><li>Present the client’s problem as temporary. </li></ul>
Tool of Influence #3 Give them “exclusive” information.
Make your information, tips and messages feel “exclusive.” <ul><li>Use questions that encourage the client to reveal what’s important to her. </li></ul><ul><li>Provide time for the client to think about her responses. </li></ul><ul><li>Listen fully to the client using your heart and head. </li></ul>Tool of Influence #3: Give them exclusive information.
<ul><li>Label materials with client or child’s name </li></ul><ul><li>Ask the client to write her own action plan </li></ul>Make your information, tips and messages feel “exclusive.” Tool of Influence #3: Give them exclusive information.
Tool of Influence #4 Use emotion when talking to your client.
3-Steps to persuade others… according to Aristotle <ul><li>1. Credibility </li></ul><ul><li>2. EMOTION </li></ul><ul><li>3. Logic </li></ul>Tool of Influence #4: Use emotion.
are more important than Tool of Influence #4: Use emotion.
Talk about the emotional benefits of taking action. Tool of Influence #4: Use emotion.
Tool of Influence #5 Let them know what others are doing.
“ How others make this work.” TRT 1:57 Vignette 5
Tool of Influence #6 Get them to make a commitment.
Ask questions. <ul><li>What will you do first? </li></ul><ul><li>When do you think you can get started? </li></ul><ul><li>How do you think this will work for you and your family? </li></ul>Tool of Influence #6: Get them to make a commitment.
Try verbal confirmations. <ul><li>Are you willing to give _____ a try? </li></ul><ul><li>Can I count on you to give me feedback on _____ next time? </li></ul><ul><li>Will your family get to try _____ this month? </li></ul>Tool of Influence #6: Get them To make a commitment.
“ What idea can you try today?” TRT 1:18 Vignette 6
FINAL Tool of Influence End the visit on a high note. Tool of Influence #7
“ A person of influence in 6 minutes...” TRT 6:07 Vignette 7