One of the key aspects of being a massage therapist is knowing how to listen to your clients. It may sounds like common sense, but can easily be overlooked amid a busy schedule and exhausted mind.
Listening to your client, really hearing what they are saying, and communicating back to them will not only gain their trust and confidence, but will allow you to grow and become an excellent massage therapist.
Often times, a client will come to you seeking knowledge – about a specific service, a physical or emotional concern, or other massage-related question. They expect you to not only listen in detail to what they are saying, but also provide a solution or answer to their problem. By taking the time to focus on the client and their needs, you are providing them with a safe, confidant climate in which they can voice their concerns and trust they are being understood.
While listening to spoken words is crucial, a massage therapist must also learn to listen to what is not being said. A client may not know how to put their message into words or accurately describe what they are feeling or looking for. Additionally, a client may not be saying everything on their mind (being indirect). Be aware of unspoken signs, such as hesitation, wavering, vague comments, or a sudden change in voice tone or body language. For example, if a client says the pressure you are putting on a certain spot is fine, but their face is in a grimace and their muscles tighten, what they say might not be what they mean. It is important to be attuned to your client and ensure they are comfortable with the situation, the treatment plan, and otherwise.
Encourage your clients to share their thoughts and concerns and avoid making assumptions about how they are feeling. Show the client you have heard and understood them by reflecting back upon your conversations; capture the essence of their message in a short summary using phrases such as:
- You feel
- You’re saying
- You’re thinking
- Your point of view is
- Your concern is
- Did I get that right
This form of reflection will reassure them that you are listening not only to what they said, but to what they meant. This is also a great way to make sure you are understanding them correctly. By ensuring yourself and your client that you have clearly understood their message, you can avoid many mistakes and misunderstandings that result from poor communication.