Readiness, Willingness, and Ability to Change


Continuing Conversation on the Recipe for Influence

It may seem like common sense, but people have to be ready, willing, and able to change.  When addressing spiritual matters with people this is all the more important.  As I have shared many times before, in our current culture we have a responsibility to build genuine open dialogue to begin to facilitate our understanding of where people are with these three factors.  Particularly in eliciting a person’s reasons to change, it is vital to know about their background and foundational beliefs in order to speak to their lives.

Let’s specifically take a look at factors for change identified in the work of Bill Miller and Stephen Rollinick in their book Motivational Interviewing:

  • Desire – Is change in a person’s life important?  Is change something that they are willing to invest time, money, and energy in?
  • Ability – Helping someone see their sin may cause them to think they are not able to change.  How would you address someone who is struggling with a problem with pornography who, knowing it is wrong, cannot overcome that problem?  What about people who have been hurt by the church and do not feel comfortable with attending services?
  • Reason – What would make a person want to change?  If I believe that I can go to heaven by just being a good person, what relevance does your gospel message have for my life?  How might you address someone who does not believe in an afterlife?
  • Need- The need for eternal security may not be a concern for people with whom you are talking about matters of faith.  There are other needs for God such as guidance, belief, and assurance that someone has more power over our situation than we do.  Remember that need alone will prompt someone toward change.

A person’s need to change may not be what your need for change was at this stage.  Proceed with caution and be sure to discover what may be indicators from the other person for their need to change.  When Jesus talked about “life to the full” he did not only mean heaven, but also a more meaningful and fulfilling life in relationship with God and following the divine will.  Discover what the need that others have in their lives for salvation.

The key with assessing a person’s readiness, willingness, and ability to change is to find out from them what their values are rather than imposing our will on them.  If a person can tell you about their reasons for change then they are more likely to change.  Research is showing that people are more interested in being understood than in being right.  If you are able to reach out to them and listen to their heart, then you can have unprecedented influence in the lives of those around you.


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About Aaron Gardner

Aaron is a counselor and student of the Bible, passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He lives in central Indiana with his wife, one-year-old son and their two dogs. View all posts by Aaron Gardner

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