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Communication and Listening Skills for Personal Trainers


The Importance of Good Communication Between Trainers and Clients

Communication skills are also known as “people skills”, because, at its best, communicating involves connecting with people and positive and productive ways.

As you enhance your skills in this area, you can expect to increase productivity, reduce stress and improve teamwork. You will also build stronger client relationships and minimize the potential for misunderstandings among colleagues, coworkers, and clients. However, the greatest benefit manifests itself in clients who feel at ease and experience high levels of satisfaction with you being their trainer.

Good communication is a two-way process that involves an exchange of ideas, emotions, and attitudes. The ultimate goal of communication is to elicit some type of action.

The communication skills necessary and effective therapeutic relationships are the ability to establish rapport, listen to answers, effectively utilize communication technology, be patient, make intelligent observations, elicit information, ask open-ended questions, gain cooperation, conduct excellent client interviews, ask for input, assert boundaries, use active listening techniques and show genuine concern.

Listening Skills

Although more than half of all communication time is spent listening, very few of us have received training in the most effective ways to listen. In fact, by the time we reach adulthood, any of us have become highly skilled at tuning out messages — either from well-meaning but overcritical parents or teachers, or from the constant bombardment of media advertisements.

Listening goes beyond hearing. Hearing is simply the physiological process by which the brain interprets information received in the ears. Listening involves taking the time to understand and interpret heard information. Listening means giving the speaker your full attention.

Effective listening skills affect clients in positive and powerful ways. They can help a client to feel at ease. Listening skills can also help diffuse difficult or awkward situations when you may encounter an emotionally upset client. Being heard can profoundly help a client to relax and heal. After feeling truly heard, a client may relax, breathe deeper, sleep better and feel less tension in his or her body.

One of the most common mistakes in both personal and professional communications is to give unsolicited advice or turn the focus back to yourself when someone expresses concern and frustration. By jumping in with a solution or inserting your experiences or situation, the person you’re talking with will not feel truly heard. In a professional setting, you also risk traversing into territory better handled by a psychotherapist. With training and experience, however, trainers can learn to manage the fine line between being supportive and moving into the territory of a psychotherapist.

Active listening

Active listening involves giving your full attention to the speaker. Often times this means listening for the feelings behind words, facial expressions or gestures. Words convey only part of the message. To completely comprehend what the client is saying, the trainer needs to understand what the message means to the client. This means that we have to understand what’s be- ing said from the client’s frame of reference. It also requires a willingness to set aside wandering thoughts and to stay focused on the client’s words.

An active listener will raise interest with non-verbal communication, such as open body language and steady eye contact, and avoids dis- tractions such as fiddling with a pen. The active listener also pays close attention to the client’s verbal and nonverbal communication. The old saying, “walk a mile in my shoes”, captures the essence of active listening.

Reflective Feedback – Linking Active Listening to Your Client

Reflective feedback is one of the most effective techniques for enhancing communication. This involves briefly restating the feelings, concerns or content that the client has said. An active listener, or trainer, that uses reflective feedback, first allows the speaker to relate their story without interruption and then responds by asking further questions or rephrasing what was heard.

When doing reflective feedback, do not merely parrot back what someone has said. This can be counterproductive. Instead, find the core of the message, and show understanding by how you reflect back to the client in your own words. Use tone and intention to convey what was heard and check to see that what was heard is accurate. For example, a client claims to be experiencing pain in her right shoulder. An active listener might reflect back, following up by saying, “Tell me more about the pain.” “How does this pain factor into your daily activities?”, or, “What I hear you saying is that the pain…”

If you have accurately received your client’s words, your paraphrasing will confirm this for them. If, on the other hand, your paraphrasing is incorrect, the client has an opportunity to correct this. Another advantage of reflecting a message back to the client is that it offers them time to reflect on what they said, and an opportunity to delve deeper into themselves.

Try practicing reflective feedback through asking questions, such as, “So what you’re saying is that you’ve been having headaches after you were rear-ended last week?” Reflecting in the form of a question gives the client an opportunity to tell you if you heard him correctly and to add any information that they may want to convey.

Validate the client’s feelings and experiences regardless of what you think about them. Also, refrain from expressing any judgments or personal opinions. This can be more difficult than you may think. Simple agreement or disagreement with the content of the information can be judgmental, or judgment can be more direct as in the following example: a client is very distraught because her teenage son was caught drinking last night, so you must avoid saying things like, “Wow, I hear how upset you are when your son behaves stupidly!”

Reflective feedback requires total presence; people see, hear and feel when you’re paying attention to what they say. It also requires that a trainer paraphrase, instead of repeating, what has been heard, word for word. Only reflect back what is most important to the client and for the process-related training.

Starting Your Training Career

Now it’s your turn to take action. Did you know that most fitness careers don’t require formal education or a degree?

Learn more about the variety of fitness industry careers. There is always something exciting about earning a new training or coaching certification and applying that new knowledge of how you train your clients. This also helps you hit the reset button.

Check out what it takes to start a career in personal fitness training. This is your most affordable and fastest way to become a highly qualified personal trainer.

Is your recertification coming up? Learn more about earning your CEU credits. You can find the full list of CEU courses here.

If you are ready to start your online personal training or coaching business, don’t forget to learn more about our online coaching course. You will also really enjoy this very comprehensive training course called Online Expert Empire.

There is always something exciting about earning a new training or coaching certification and applying that new knowledge of how you train your clients. This also helps you hit the reset button.

NESTA and Spencer Institute coaching programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.

Thanks for reading!

The NESTA/Spencer Institute Team

PS: Click here to see many helpful business/career resources