Small Talk to Promote Big Changes
If I could go back in time and tell myself one thing about personal training – it’d be this.
Get good at small talk.
You might be thinking – why? Why would I need to refine my small talking skills?
Because you gain a lot of information from small talk.
When you client comes into your session – you might go through the formalities like checking in on their nutrition, training program and/or sleep. If you are not well acquainted with the art of small talk, what’s left is a lot of awkward silence.
However, there is a lot of information to be extracted from small talk. Small talk about their jobs, day to day, social relationships, many of which you may consider irrelevant to your job, can actually provide important answers to their health mysteries.
For example, there will be many instances where a simple question like ‘how’s work?’ can lead to an unravelling of work stressors, which might be able to explain why they appear particularly low in energy, or they have not been able to sleep properly. Would it be our role to help them solve their work issues? No, absolutely not. But perhaps it would be within our power to modify our programs to accommodate higher stress levels.
Sometimes clients just need to let out whatever they have been bottling up inside, in order to get on with their session. If you haven’t noticed by now, movement seems to open people up. After a session, or in the middle of a workout, people tend to be more talkative. Whatever personal wall they may have come in with, seems to come down as they become more physically loose. One could probably try to rationalise why this is the case – from endorphins, to dopamine, to anxiety releasing effects of exercise… but really the product is what matters. People talk more as they train.
Furthermore, small talk is a way of finding common ground with your client. Common ground is essential for building trust. Trust allows your client to relax, which allows for an overall more enjoyable experience. Training programs aside, the 1 hour you might have with someone two to three times a week should be an enjoyable experience.
As amazing as your training program and expertise may be, arguably the most important factor in your client’s success is their belief in you. If they believe in you and what you’re going to do with them, their likelihood of success will increase. This is true in almost all therapeutic professions, from physiotherapy to psychology. It is no different to the trainer-client relationship.
There are formalities which would contribute to overall trust, like education levels and social credibility, but these will only get you so far, and are short-lasting. True trust can only built over time. And small talk is the way we begin the process.