Top tips for having difficult conversations

07 June 2018
doctor and patient

Health practitioners know that obesity can be a serious issue for a patient’s long-term health, but raising the topic of someone’s weight can be difficult.  

It can be even more challenging to talk to parents about a child being overweight or obese, especially if parents don’t recognise that their child is overweight.

However, the growing number of obese New Zealanders means that health practitioners need to get better at having these kinds of conversations.

The Healthy Conversation Skills philosophy offers some practical and easy-to-use strategies to better handle these tricky consultations.

Healthy Conversation Skills promotes a non-judgemental conversation style and focuses more on listening than making suggestions.

The aim should be to talk about weight as a health issue and a measure of health, not about how big someone is.

A key philosophy is that the patient or client will have the solutions to best manage their own lifestyle behaviour change for long-term health.

The best way to identify these solutions is to use open discovery questions to find out what motivates the patient and what they can realistically achieve.

Here are some of our top open discovery questions for a conversation about weight, in particular a consultation about a child being overweight:

  • What do you understand about BMI?
  • What do think it means when the BMI is in the (90th percentile / 95th percentile etc)?
  • How do you feel about your child being in the (90th percentile for BMI)?
  • How do you feel about talking about this now?
  • How does your child feel about their weight or body size?
  • How does being this size affect your child?
  • What, if any, limitations has your child’s experienced while playing? How do you feel about that?
  • What do you need from me right now?
  • What, if anything, would you like to discuss about your child’s health or weight?
  • What’s one small thing you could change to create a healthier lifestyle for your child?

As we know, physical activity also can be a really important part of maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle.

Below are some of our top open discovery questions for talking about how patients can incorporate more physical activity into their lives.

  • What types of physical activity are you or your child doing?
  • What types of physical activity would you or your child like to be doing?
  • What have you or your child enjoyed in the past?
  • What activity would you all enjoy doing together as a family?
  • How would you feel if you do (insert patient’s preferred physical activity)?
  • How do you think you might feel 2, 5, 10 years from now if you don’t make any changes?

Having these kinds of conversations will help identify the change the client feels is most important and is therefore most motivated to make happen.

If you’d like to learn how to have more effective conversations with patients or clients about lifestyle behaviour change, then register for a Healthy Conversation Skills workshop here.