There’s a lot that goes into running a successful massage practice. You need to know how to market, how to keep up with your finances, obviously the hands-on work has to be stellar, and all that good stuff, but there’s a skill that’s often overlooked in all this, and it might just be what makes or breaks your business.
Communication is probably the most overlooked skill, in my opinion, in the business of massage therapy. It’s what reels clients in from your marketing. It’s what allows you to pull information out of them effectively in their intake and throughout a session. It’s what gets them coming back again and again. It’s what builds that invaluable relationship that determines loyalty and creates lifelong clients. It’s what creates a positive company culture when you have anyone working with or for you.
No, it’s not taught in massage school. It’s not taught in most other schools either, even though based on how society is going right now, I think effective communication should become mandatory learning. But within your practice, how you communicate with clients is so important. What you say when you answer the phone, how you ask and answer questions, what you say in your marketing, how you phrase your attempts at educating clients, how you verbalize your boundaries, how you encourage clients to return again and again, how you remain in contact with them and follow up even when the person isn’t an active client.
There are a few problems I see again and again from therapists when it comes to ineffective communication.
#1 They avoid conflict like the plague.
These people won’t firmly set boundaries, or if they have them set in their head, they don’t verbalize them until things have gone way too far.
#2 They expect the worst out of people.
These are the ones who kind of have a chip on their shoulder. And I don’t say that to be mean, but if you’re constantly looking for people to let you down, to cross a line, to do something wrong…you’ll constantly find that.
#3 They forget they’re dealing with fallible human beings.
Your clients, and potential clients, are humans. They’re going to screw up. They’re going to get the time wrong on occasion, say something that irks you, or forget something you told them. Yes, you have to stick to boundaries and hold your own in your business, but you also have to remember that you ain’t exactly perfect either, so stop expecting perfection out of every single client. Just like you need to give yourself some grace, offer that same grace to your clients too.
#4 They just don’t know how to talk to people.
I mean, this really is a big problem. I’m not saying you have to be a social butterfly and extroverted; not at all. But if you really see that you’re just not good at talking with people, you struggle to ask the right questions, to know what to say in certain circumstances, or how to confront issues head-on, learn. Yes, there are courses and books, and role-play exercises you can do that can help you develop those skills. Because communication is a skill. It’s not something we’re all born knowing how to do. It’s often based on our upbringing, the communication we’ve experienced throughout our lives that determine how we then communicate with others. If you don’t have those skills built into you through that, it’s never too late to learn. Just like any other skill, it takes learning, and implementing, and practice to get good at it, and to get comfortable with it. So go learn!
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