Communication is the main tool for all teachers, educators, and trainers. It’s a skill that’s required to develop strong client relationships and career success. The difference between the communication of daily life and the communication in health coaching is the need for careful consideration of what’s being communicated. There are a number of communication interactions that must take place before clients can start making changes towards desired health behaviors.
Verbal communication, and to some extent written communication, can be separated into a four-step process.
1. The speaker says something
2. The listener hears what the speaker says
3. The listener decodes what the speaker said, making meaning from the words and figuring out what they think the speaker meant
4. The listener processes the message further, which can include back and forth with the speaker, to further understand what the speaker said and meant
Communication in health can be distorted in a few different ways.
The words were not heard correctly – either because of distractions, noise, language barriers, or pronunciation issues.
The speaker delivers a limited message that hasn’t been thought out – whether due to their difficult expressing thoughts, language limitations, or difficulty dealing with complex emotions, ideas, or thoughts the speaker has not fully processed.
The listener misinterprets the message from the speaker. This can be because of personal bias or experiences influencing their interpretation.
To avoid issues in communication with clients check out some tips for communication with your client.
1. Nonverbal Communication (The 7/38/55 Rule)
This rule means that 7% of communication is from the words that are said, 38% of communication is from the way those words are said (from tone of voice to inflections), and 55% of communication stems from nonverbal communication. It’s not only important that you are careful with what you say and how you say it, but that you make sure your body language is positive and supportive of your message. A simple trick is to have a smile on your face, which can be heard in your tone of voice even on the phone!
2. Session Reminders
Many people have busy schedules and sometimes it can become an issue with clients missing appointments. An easy solution is to send reminders about the appointment the day ahead before a session. You can do this through batch messaging or individual messages. It’s good to include prompts in the message as well, such as things like:
Reminder of when and where
Telling them about any specific equipment or clothing they need to bring
3. In-Session Communication
The art of communication during sessions is a skill that will improve over time. Here are a few basic ideas of ways to improve your communication with clients (especially when in the early stages of a relationship with a new client)
Think about what you’re saying before you say it. This sounds simple, but it’s easy to say things without considering their implications or their appropriateness in a session.
Use language your client will know. It’s easy to forget that some terms and concepts that are commonplace to you, are foreign to others. Try to explain things in a way that’s understandable to anyone until you have built vocabulary and understanding of new concepts with your client.
Be present with your communication. It’s easy to go on autopilot when you’re going through exercises you’ve done for a long time. Remember the experience level of your client when communicating in-session. You’re already their trainer, so you don’t need to try and impress them by loading technical language into your communication.
4. Active Listening
Listening attentively to your client discussing their goals and motivation is essential to being an effective trainer. A few easy ways to demonstrate active listening:
Mirroring is when you repeat what the client says back to them. This can be done by repeating part of what they said back to them within a question, so as to expand upon things they are saying and dive deeper.
Labelling is when you draw a conclusion about what they’ve said to confirm you understood correctly. An example of this would be someone saying ‘I had a tough time this morning. I woke up late and my coffee machine wouldn’t work!’ and the listener responding by saying ‘It sounds like you had a rough morning!’.
Talking positively about what your client is doing or their progress with training is a great way to reinforce the benefits of their training and the outcomes without directly commenting on appearance or transformation. While some clients may welcome comments on physical appearance, it’s good in the early stages of a client relationship to be cognizant of these boundaries.