Massage & Bodywork

MAY | JUNE 2022

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84 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k m ay/ j u n e 2 0 2 2 Fearless Feedback Teaching Clients to Ask for What They Need By Cindy Williams essential skills | BACK TO BASICS Giving and receiving feedback can be a touchy subject. For starters, sometimes it isn't easy to receive feedback from someone, especially when they are offering a critical opinion. On the other hand, giving feedback isn't much easier, especially when it is a request for a change. Fear resides on both sides of the issue. Why does giving and receiving feedback induce double-sided anxiety? After all, isn't the purpose to encourage improvement or increase the potential of meeting an intended outcome? Ultimately, this should be seen as a good thing. However, time and time again the situation repeats: Clients don't give feedback (or the feedback is vague) so they receive a session that might be "good enough" but not necessarily customized to their precise needs and wishes. They cut themselves short of experiencing something exceptional. Here's a statement of truth: It's on you to make feedback happen in your treatment room. So, how can you create an environment of fearless feedback? Let's start by understanding why feedback can be so difficult to give and receive. Then, we can consider what great feedback looks and sounds like. Finally, we will look at methods for teaching your clients to give you useful feedback. THE EMOTION OF FEEDBACK Why is feedback so challenging to give and receive for many people? Since I am an inquirer, I have asked this question to clients and therapists alike. The responses always boil down to a single emotion: fear. Feedback givers fear hurting the receiver's feelings and/or causing them to think they are falling short. They also fear coming across as critical or too picky. Another factor is clients tend to assume the therapist knows best and is applying a technique in a specific way and/or at a specific depth and pace to meet a treatment goal. They don't feel it is their place to tell the "expert" how to do their job. There is a tendency for the feedback receiver to fear they haven't measured up. It's common, especially for those who care about doing their job well, for the ego to get in the way and defensiveness to arise. Subconsciously, feedback (especially when it is corrective) can be perceived as threatening and autonomically initiate a fight-or-flight response. FROM EMOTIONAL TO INFORMATIONAL How do we overcome these emotional obstacles and cultivate an environment of fearless giving and receiving of feedback? The key is to recognize for ourselves, and to communicate to our clients, that feedback is given and received through a lens of genuine care and desire to improve an outcome or increase the potential of meeting a goal. It's an exchange of information and a team effort. Rather than being feedback about the person delivering the massage, it is feedback about the client's experience, comfort, and preferences. Communicate that feedback is a welcome and essential component to delivering a quality, customized massage experience that meets the individual client's needs. Simply stating this is not enough, though. We must also teach our clients what specific feedback we want and need to accomplish goals. Even go as far as to offer optional phrases they can use to ask for change. Sometimes clients aren't even sure what to ask for or how to ask for it.

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