On a massage therapist’s first day at work, the training starts with how to say hello to a client. Easy?
Oh heavens. I have had massage trainees stare at the floor. Roll eyes in a complete circle looking everywhere but at the client. Worst, a brief nanosecond of eye contact followed by staring over the head.
How would you feel to be greeted these ways? Would you go into a room, take your clothes off and figure everything is going to be fine?
Yes, sometime before massage therapists become overnight successes because of their fabulous hands, they need to learn the art of eye contact. Yet for many of the massage community, we’re introverts, looking for a quiet place to work in harmony. We didn’t think about developing eye contact because we are not social divas, by and large.
That first day of looking a stranger in the eye can bring out insecurity for a walk right across your face.
Here is the really bad news. When you cannot look someone in the eye they don’t see shy and humble. They see sneaky, dishonest, and even incompetent. Fear or loathing. Aloofness. Distance. Not the first impression anyone would want to make with a client, ever. The last impression a therapist wants is a wrong one.
With two or more trainees, it is fairly easy to practice greetings with each other. You do not know each other, but you are in this life raft together. We will go over it about a dozen times, and toss out those little things in our expressions and eyes that say the opposite of the greeting we speak.
It takes some doing especially when the new trainee is solo. One of my solo newbies was getting great feedback on her massage, but her surveys indicated that her greetings were getting in the way. The telling question – would you request this person again – was not going her way. If the survey says the massage was great, what to do?
We had a talk over mocha bobas, a drink invented by people who want to make me feel old.
It went something like this:
How are things going?
Great! I love my job!
Fantastic. How are you doing with building your client list?
I’m getting some people back. Not as many as I thought I would. It seems to take time.
Is there anything that you think would help you?
The dreaded open-ended question. A pause. This is the most uncomfortable time. But this new therapist was intelligent and gifted. She knew what I was asking.
I think I need more help with greetings.
Let’s practice now. Go up to the barista and ask for something more. Look her in the eye. Greet her like a client. See if you can connect with just your eye contact.
She tried it, and came back.
That was tough. I felt like I was staring at her, invading her space. It was very uncomfortable. I don’t like it.
Suppose that is the only way to get your coffee, or anything else in your life that you want. Can you make eye contact? Can you practice enough in the next week to get comfortable with it?
Yes, it was an assignment. When we met for coffee the next week, her discomfort was less, her confidence more. We can still both be shy, I said, we just have to learn how to connect with our eyes and our hands.