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CommuteCon 2018

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Winning at Behavior Change

Alix Scarborough
Membership Program Manager
Movability Austin

Session Description

Austin, Texas is one of America’s fastest-growing metro areas, which has led to sharp rises in traffic congestion. Alix Scarborough, the membership program manager at Movability Austin, joined us to talk about winning strategies for encouraging behavior change among commuters.

Scarborough notes that changing commuter behavior is not an easy thing to do. Yet, she has found a strategy that works well when it comes to getting things moving in the right direction: motivational interviewing.

Motivational interviewing is a person-centered, guiding method often used in one-on-one conversations. It aims to encourage change by helping commuters identify their own motivations for adopting new transportation behaviors. It can also be applied at the program design, communication, and marketing levels.

The key principle behind motivational interviewing is that it does take a prescriptive “you-must-do-this” approach to changing behavior. Instead, it works to help commuters better understand the ways in which adopting smarter and more sustainable modes of transportation will benefit them specifically. It then works to reinforce and strengthen those reasons, essentially making change come from within.

Scarborough teaches a two-day motivational interviewing course that helps participants grasp and apply its principles. She presented a condensed version with a couple of important takeaways that people can apply to their own commuter programs right away.

First, Scarborough discussed the cycle of change. This model asks a fundamental question: why don’t people change? It then offers solutions for each of the main reasons why people tend to resist adopting new behaviors:

  • Reason #1: People don’t see the need to change. In this case, it is necessary to give them insight, and help them see that change is needed.
  • Reason #2: People don’t know that alternatives exist. Here, the solution is to give them the knowledge they lack.
  • Reason #3: People don’t understand how to change. Thus, they need to develop the skills they’re missing.
  • Reason #4: People don’t care. This can be overcome by helping people see that the situation actually does impact them. Fear of negative consequences and feeling bad about contributing to a problem are both powerful motivators.

Scarborough also discussed the importance of reflection, which can be achieved through active listening. This encourages dialogue, which in turn creates exactly the kind of situation that leads to positive change — one in which commuters themselves feel like active participants in the conversation who are working in their own best interests.

Be sure to watch her entire presentation for in-depth, detailed discussion of these and other powerful motivational tools.