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34 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k n o v e m b e r / d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 7 CLASSROOM TO CLIENT education There is more to an exceptional massage experience than well-executed hands-on skills. In 2014, I conducted a series of interviews across the country with massage consumers to gain a firsthand understanding of what clients want from massage sessions. While clients definitely want to receive massage from a well-trained, technically skilled therapist, they choose whether to continue as a regular client for more expansive reasons. One of the primary complaints clients reported in these interviews was that many massage therapists don't listen to their needs and don't create an individualized experience based on what is asked for. Clients want to be heard and responded to based on what they say. In short, they want connection. WHAT IS CONNECTION? Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary defines connection as "A situation in which two or more things have the same cause, origin, or goal." 1 You must communicate effectively, authentically, and with curiosity in order to determine what caused a client to come to you, as well as what their goals are. This information can then be applied to the massage experience in several ways so the client feels heard. From the first moment we meet a new client, to the massage session and beyond, creating and maintaining connection is simple when a few basic communication skills are applied. HOW TO CONNECT Following are simple ways to let your client know you care about why they are coming to see you and how you can help them reach their session goals. Make a Pre-Session Phone Call It's helpful to make a reminder call about your upcoming client appointments, because it reduces the number of cancellations and no- shows. However, the pre-session call can also be a great time to find out why your client is coming to see you. For first-time clients, ask them if they are seeking relaxation and stress relief, or if they have a specific pain or injury they want to have addressed (it might be both). Whatever their needs are, respond with empathy, saying things like, "I understand how tiring stress and/or pain can be, so I look forward to providing you some relief," or, "Thank you for letting me know ahead of time so I can have some [warm towels, warm rice bags, pain relief cream, etc.] ready to go to make the session even more effective," or, "I have some great techniques to address neck pain, so I'm sure I can help." Reflect back what you hear them say. If you are calling a repeat client, you can ask how they've been feeling since the last session. Ask, "How is your shoulder feeling? Have you felt any improvements, or is it still hurting?" The simple act of remembering what was addressed at the last session proves to your client that you were paying attention. You don't have to go into elaborate detail, but you can begin communicating that you care about their needs. Listen Actively Active listening is a skill. The more you practice, the better you become. A few valuable suggestions made in a Forbes magazine article are particularly appropriate for massage therapists: 2 1. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact. Avoid engaging in any other activity, such as resetting the room or warming a rice bag, while your client is reporting their current status. 2. Try to picture what the speaker is saying. For massage therapists, this is especially helpful as you determine how to approach the client's area of pain or stress. Creating Connection Effective Approaches to Ensure Your Clients Feel Heard By Cindy Williams

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