We all feel a little better when we are understood. It makes us feel as if we have been heard and our plight or situation has been shared and experienced. Somehow, the ability to get others to step into our shoes, at least for a few minutes, helps others to understand what we may feel or go through on a deeper level. This central truth is a powerful tool when it comes to client retention. In fact, this philosophy can be particularly helpful in fields like personal training where people often hire a trainer because they have been unsuccessful in their own attempts to improve their fitness level or lose weight.
The View from Someone Else’s Balcony (Cognitive Empathy)
Although most people may look at the connection between a [personal trainer and his or her client as both functional, professional, and service oriented, the biggest piece to this puzzle is the connectedness that developing a relationship with your client can build. If you have a client that suffers from a chronic illness like diabetes and is also struggling with weight loss, being able to step into his or her shoes for a few minutes and feel what they feel becomes imperative. When you slip into their lives and feel the full weight of their challenge it softens your heart and becomes a form of instruction for how to approach a particular client in a way that will get them to open up more and trust you. That trust will make it easier to discuss every aspect of your client’s fitness and health goals, even the advantages of the military diet.
Understanding is Key (Emotional/Apathetic Empathy)
The ability to experience what someone else is feeling is the ability to simply understand, just from observation, what someone else may be experiencing and have compassion towards the person. You may have a client that has had other personal trainers that weren’t able to help them because they didn’t take the time to understand their personal journey and emotional needs. The ability to understand helps to open up dialogue and create understanding. This helps a trainer to personalize his or her speech to suit the client’s personal wants and needs. Your client could work for a local utility pole manufacturer and be burned out from all the stress of the job. However, your ability to understand how he or she feels will help you temper your communication with him or her.
Compassion and empathy are inherently different concepts, however, when these two words are married they describe the ability to experience another person’s pain, suffering, or situation so deeply that they that you are strongly motivated to help alleviate or resolve the suffering. This, of course, is the role of a personal trainer. He or she has to be moved enough by their client’s personal struggles to help them in an intensely personalized and altruistic manner. If you know that Susan has recently lost 50 pounds but still needs to lose another 50 to be truly healthy and avoid her heart attack risks everything you say or do for Susan will be tempered with this intensely personal knowledge about her background and situation.
The ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is magic. It is the key ingredient to figuring out what your clients really need to feel heard and motivated. Empathy is a powerful gift. The more we develop this gift the more it will help us build a stronger relationship with our clients.