“How can I best serve you?”
That question should be the starting point of your initial conversation with clients as you make the transition from training or coaching them in person to offering virtual sessions. And you should use that question as a touchstone along the way, as a means of checking in to uncover whether a client’s needs and goals have changed over time.
You might be surprised by some of the responses you hear when you ask this question, and some of your clients may even surprise themselves. Clients whose goals once centered on weight management or sports performance may now be more interested in boosting their immune system or using physical activity to better manage their stress or improve their sleep habits.
The point is, you should ask clients often how you can be of service—and then actively listen to each client’s response and modify your coaching or training accordingly. You will likely find that clients’ emotional and psychological needs may become more of a focus in the coming weeks and months of social distancing.
Having an altruistic mindset is vital, now more than ever. Your role is to empower clients to improve their health and wellness at a time in history when those things are most vulnerable, so it’s important to take on that role with passion, warmth and empathy.
Using your emotional intelligence is also essential during these uncertain times. Emotional intelligence is a marker of how well a person is able to navigate the “softer side” of the human experience, including emotions, communication and relationships (ACE, 2019), all of which are at the forefront of everyone’s minds at the moment.
As a trusted companion to a person or a group making very personal and challenging behavioral changes, a high degree of emotional intelligence is important for both career success and client outcomes (ACE, 2019). Understanding and empathizing with what a client is going through emotionally and psychologically is an important skill for any health coach or exercise professional. This is particularly true when your clients are coping with social isolation and loneliness and all of the emotional turmoil that comes along with that. In addition, the prevalence of mental health issues like depression and anxiety will only increase as the period of social distancing extends into an uncertain future.
There are four domains of emotional intelligence, which are listed here from the most fundamental to the most complex, with definitions from Mayer and Salovey (1997):
- Self-awareness: The ability to perceive emotions in oneself and others accurately
- Self-management: The ability to use emotions to facilitate thinking
- Social awareness: The ability to understand emotions, emotional language and the signals conveyed by emotions
- Relationship management: The ability to manage emotions to attain specific goals
To learn more about this important topic and learn skills and strategies to become more emotionally intelligent, visit the following resources:
- The Emotional Intelligence Consortium – www.eiconsortium.org
- UC Berkeley: The Greater Good Science Center –
Finally, this is the time to tap into your heart and lead with compassion and love, as developing rapport and emotionally connecting with your clients is more important than ever.
American Council on Exercise (2019). The Professional’s Guide to Health and Wellness Coaching. San Diego: American Council on Exercise.
Mayer, J.D. & Salovey, P. (1997). What is emotional intelligence? In: Salovey, P. & Slayter, D. (Eds.) Emotional Development and Emotional Intelligence: Educational Implications (pp 3–31). New York: Basic Books.