“It is not what you say, it is how you say it,” is a phrase that comes to mind when thinking about non-verbal communication. Voice quality, eye contact, facial expression, hand gestures and body position are all a part of how we convey non-verbal messages and are particularly important to consider when working with clients. Below are definitions of each and how they apply to personal training:
The quality or tone of your voice is crucial when delivering information to your client. You never want to appear timid or indecisive—your clients must be able to trust that you are knowledgeable and able to guide them. Your voice should project confidence and certainty.
Clients like to know that they have your undivided attention. If you are constantly averting your eyes or looking down, this tells the client that you are either not fully present or you lack confidence. Maintaining direct, friendly eye contact not only shows that you’re attentive and self-confident, but also that you care about what your client has to say.
You must always be genuine. Your facial expression speaks volumes and your clients know when you are being sincere. Concern, thoughtfulness and enjoyment are emotions that should be conveyed through your facial expression. For example, saying the words, “Nice to meet you,” with a frown or with indifference could be confusing for the client. Although your words are positive, your facial expression does not match your intent.
Some individuals can be quite expressive or animated in their communication through the use of hand gestures. Hand gestures that are frantic, fidgety or abrupt can send the wrong message or distract clients. It is important to maintain relaxed, fluid movements with your hands when interacting with clients.
When interacting with your clients, your body position should communicate confidence, openness and attentiveness. Body positions such as slouching or crossing your arms, for example, can give the impression of fatigue, lack of confidence or even disinterest. As a fitness professional, your body serves as an example of your profession; therefore, having good posture and body language that portrays this is vital.
Being punctual for scheduled appointments and responding promptly to client requests and/or phone calls are also ways in which we communicate non-verbally.