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The Perfectionist's Handbook: Take Risks, Invite Criticism, and Make the Most of Your Mistakes by Jeff Szymanski, PhD

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Chapter 3

Insight Doesn't Always Lead to Change

Pros and Cons: An Overview

In this chapter I want to talk more specifically about the costs and benefits of your perfectionistic behavior, how you might be stuck, and some strategies to begin maneuvering around those obstacles. To do this I want to describe in more detail a treatment strategy called motivational interviewing (MI). MI was developed with the goal of helping problem drinkers resolve their ambivalence about their detrimental alcohol use. According to this model, ambivalence is a conflict between two courses of action: to drink or not to drink. This approach openly acknowledges that each option has benefits and costs associated with it. Therapists using this treatment approach point out that direct persuasion (i.e., “Stop drinking. It is ruining your life!”) doesn't work. And in fact, there is a good amount of evidence that supports their claim. In other words, it works better when you start an interaction with someone by attempting to understand his or her intention. If you try to discern why individuals do what they do, as well as the function it serves (i.e., what does it do for them?), they'll likely feel more understood than judged—and will therefore respond less defensively. As a result, they become more curious and open to change. When you acknowledge that there are payoffs as well as costs associated with a behavior, you deliver a message that feels more validating and motivating to the recipient.

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