newsletter Apr 11, 2024

Complaints Aren’t Conversation

By Eric Bugera

Leave negativity at the door.

  • Being a good trainer or coach expands beyond sets and reps.
  • Soft skills are an often intangible and overlooked piece of the puzzle.
  • Managing the session’s mood plays a massive role in the success of your clients.

Full Service

Running a personal training or coaching business is predominately viewed through the lens of sets and reps. You’re tasked with constructing the perfect workout to meet the needs or goals of a client – ideally faster than they would with another trainer and certainly on their own. However, the totality of your responsibility extends well beyond just a spreadsheet or clipboard. How the client receives your content is just as important as the content itself. One full hour of training should be one full hour of service. This means you’re responsible for not only the exercise, but the environment and energy of the session too.

Controlling All Variables

Getting the most out of your clients means freeing them from the distractions or stresses of the day. From weekend warriors to high level athletes, everyone is going to carry some baggage into a session from time to time. One of the key factors separating you from your rivals is the ability to manage the environment and energy of the room. Keeping the hour moving and light hearted, focused, or intense where necessary is going to wring out every last drop of productivity.

Empathizing with a client is certainly within your wheelhouse of conversation. Understanding their plights and offering a thoughtful ear during rest periods helps to build trust and deepen your client-coach relationship. However, be cautious not to fall into the trap of simply commiserating for the sake of conversation. Small talk based upon petty complaints is a nefarious way to poison the training environment. While it may not seem like much, each comment stacks the mood of the hour in a negative direction – especially if you’re the one casually venting.

The weather, politics, family, or any other seemingly innocuous topic is a potential platform for discussion, but on the other hand, a slippery slope back into the troubles of the day. Remember, your role is to facilitate self-improvement and provide distraction from the issues of the client – not magnify their potential daily annoyances through the conversations you lead. Soft skills are indeed just that, skills. It takes time to learn how to navigate the energy and mood of a client, and guide them away from potentially inflammatory conversations. Yet, that is part of the gig. While it is a hard skill to master, it’s easier to acquire when you’re not doubling down on the negative energy yourself.

Converse, Don’t Complain

One hour may seem like a long time, but in the grand scheme of a day (or especially a week) of a client’s schedule, every second is precious. Society is increasingly inundated with inflammatory commentary – whether the news, social media, or even peers. Navigating the daily trials and tribulations of a client’s mood is a big part of running a successful training business. Not only are you the overseer of the workout itself, but you’re running interference on anything that may side track the success of that hour. Be mindful that complaints and commiserating may seem like easy, casual small talk – but they are more impactful than you think.

  • Gauge your client’s mood as the session begins. 
  • Familiarize yourself with their daily stressors to avoid stacking on top of them.
  • Work to provide a stress free environment that actively distracts from the main stressors of their day.