It’s been said that it takes seven seconds to make a first impression. Body language is a big part of the instant imprint you make with another person. In the first few moments of meeting new people, they notice how you make them feel. Open body language and welcoming mannerisms are crucial in helping current and prospective clients feel comfortable and connected to you. Use these five body language tips to enhance your training skills and engage in meaningful interactions in and out of the gym.
- Maintain a welcoming posture. Avoid crossing your arms or resting your hands on your hips. These stances are intimidating and suggest a defensive demeanor. Stand tall, smile and make some sort of welcoming gesture as soon as you see your client. You don’t know what that client went through to get to the gym that day. As soon as the client arrives, it is your job to make him or her feel welcome and ready to focus on the workout you’ve planned.
- Make eye contact and engage whenever possible. Keep the 10-6 rule in mind. If you are within 10 feet of a prospective client, make eye contact and acknowledge him or her. If you are within 6 feet, make an effort to engage in salutations or small talk. A simple “Good morning,” or “How are you?” is good, but try to make it specific to that person. Use the individual’s name, comment on his or her shoes or, even better, acknowledge his or her efforts in the gym. “Jane, I noticed you tried a yoga class yesterday. How did it go?” This lets the client know that you’ve noticed her and that she matters. It also allows the client to feel proud of her work.
- Keep your hands free. Objects in your hands act as barriers. It a subconscious way of saying - I am not going to fully engage with you. This means putting down the clipboard—if you need to make notes or program edits, do so and then put it down. Second, absolutely no cell phones. Potential clients see you using your phone and assume you are checking Facebook or emails rather than engaging with the client right in front of you. Wear a watch or invest in an old-fashioned stopwatch. Finally, don’t ever bring food, drinks, gum or candy to a training session, which should be 100 percent about the client. If you are eating or drinking, you are not giving all of your attention to your client. Chewing gum is distracting and disrespectful in a training session. Keep a toothbrush in your bag to ward off coffee or onion breath if that’s a concern. Build time between clients to eat and refresh as needed.
- Operate on the client's level. Try to remain at eye level with your client at all times. This facilitates a greater feeling of working together. Standing over a client automatically puts you in a dominant position. If the client is standing, stand beside him or her, with an open posture. If your client is kneeling, you should kneel, too. If the client is on the ground, assume a kneeling position right beside him or her. Sitting sends a relaxed signal to your body when you need to be alert. Aim to be on the edge of the personal space bubble. This allows you to provide important kinesthetic or touch-based cues and speak to the client in a personal manner, rather than barking commands from a few feet away. From afar, prospective clients will view you as actively engaged rather than just monitoring your client while he or she exercises.
- Don’t forget the power of (appropriate) touch. When a client completes a new move for the first time or achieves a personal best, it is fun and meaningful to mark the occasion with a high five, fist bump or pat on the back. Physical contact is a great way to enhance the bond between you and your client. Touch or tactile cueing can also be a great teaching method to help clients develop kinesthetic awareness. A simple touch of the shoulder can help a client find proper posture. Placing a hand near the knee can guide a better squat. Communicate with your client that you will be using touch and why it will help. Pay attention to non-verbal cues and discontinue touch if you feel the client is uncomfortable.
Positive body language is a simple way to engage more fully in any relationship in your life. These five tips can be applied in and out of the gym for better communication, trust and rapport.