Michael Mantell by Michael Mantell

Your Client's Got Personality...Reading It Accurately?In my last post, I discussed the roles active, passive and competitive communication play in creating a favorable first impression while building rapport in the ACE Integrated Fitness TrainingTM (ACE IFTTM) Model.  Your communication style will necessarily vary depending on how dominant or sociable you client may be, two key personality styles that combine to form four general personality style traits every successful trainer can identify.

It’s been said that the most important element of communication is to hear what isn’t being spoken.  When it comes to the all important ingredient of building trust (visceral) and credibility (intellectual) during the rapport building phase of creating a healthy client-trainer alliance, you would do well to rely on Jimi Hendrix’ adage, “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”

Your power, position, performance and politeness, all based on a carefully crafted ability to accurately perceive your client’s personality style, will determine how well you establish rapport.  Understanding that your message is conveyed largely through your body language (50%), tone of voice (40%) and words (10%), you may begin to understand the importance of mirroring, matching and pacing your client. 

To do this well, you will need to eliminate your own internal responses, avoid mind-reading your client, and open your own sensory channels to accurately see, hear and sense what your client is communicating. 

Enter linguistic programming with its visual, auditory and kinesthetic elements. 

It’s not all that complicated, really.  Linguistic programming, sometimes referred to as neuro-linguistic programming or NLP, distinguishes between neuro—the way you use your thinking and sensory processes to grasp what is happening around you--and linguistic—the way you use your words to influence those around you.

Linguistic programming can help you in verbally establishing rapport, ultimately in the service of influencing, persuading, motivating and inspiring your clients.  To do so requires you understand what a “meta program” is.  In this instance, a “program” is another word for “strategy.” Simply said, these “meta programs” are personal traits that determine what information we allow inside of ourselves from others and also influence how we communicate with others, depending on their personality traits. 

Let’s say on the variable of “motivation direction” you determine that your client is a “toward” person.  “Towards” focus on goals, want to get, have and achieve.  These clients will typically be very clear about what they want.  You will want to discuss rewards and positive advantages of training and fitness.  Words to use with these types include: “accomplish,” “attain,” obtain,” “achieve,” and “goals.”

But if you determine your client is an “away” person, you will more likely focus on how training will help him/her avoid problems of poor health.  They focus on avoiding, trouble shooting and seeing obstacles.  Use words like, “avoid,” “steer clear of,” “get rid of,” and “eliminate.”

Similarly, if your client is more “internal” in terms of the source of his/her motivation, emphasizing his/her own thinking and personal feedback is important.  These clients will have difficulty accepting your opinion and direction easily.  Don’t get defensive.  Instead, use words like, “you know what’s best,” “it’s up to you,” “I need your opinion.” 

If you determine your client is more of an “external” your feedback becomes more important as a source of motivation. These clients need your validation.  They tend to see your requests as demands and feel overwhelmed if you offer too much to them.  Use words like, “experts say,” “research indicates,” and “your efforts will pay off when others see your results.”

If you sense that your client is someone who is motivated by “options” you will need to discuss possibilities, choices and decisions.  They are always interested in doing things in another way.  Bring in “options,” “alternatives,” “we can be flexible here,” and “let’s expand your choices.” 

On the other hand if you see that your client is motivate by “procedures” then he/she will find it more comforting and motivating to be given specific processes and rules to follow.  These clients are not easily moved to try new things without a clear procedure.  Do not break the rules with this person at all.  Focus instead on what’s “correct,” “tried and true,” “the proven path,” “follow this instruction very carefully.”

Those clients motivated by “sameness” will want to see you approach them the same way from session to session while those persuaded by “difference” will find motivation when you change up your approach from time to time.

For the clients who want their world to remain highly consistent, you want to emphasize words and concepts such as “this is the same as…,” “this is similar to…,” or “this has in common with what we just did…”

Those clients who enjoy change as a way of life, the “difference” group, enjoy hearing “new,” “fresh,”  or “this is completely different than…”

“Proactive” clients will find they are motivated when you allow them to initiate activity and “reactive” types will respond best when given the chance to take time to reflect and understand.

For you “proactive” clients who are ready to jump in and not wait for even you to being their routines, you are wise to embrace this with words like, “go for it,” “Nike’s just do it,” “why wait?,” and “it’s time to act.”  They enjoy using short sentences and act like they are in control.
“Reactive” clients on the other hand prefer to wait, favor holding back until they are sure what they are doing is correct.  “Consider the following,” is a good term for these “analyzers.”  “Let’s investigate this further…,” and “Read this article about that…” all are motivating music to their ears. 

Get the point?  Your clients will value and respect you when they sense you are genuinely listening not only to what they say but more importantly, to what they don’t say but communicate nevertheless. 

Sure you can build rapport with a genuine smile, friendly handshake, consistent eye contact, a proper greeting using your client’s name, but understanding how to respond to your client’s personality style will build enviable rapport and best prepare you to move along on the continuum of the ACE IFT model.

For further information, read “Live Your Dreams Let Reality Catch Up- NLP & Common Sense for Coaches, Managers and You” by Roger Ellerton, Ph.D., CMC and “Words that Change Minds: Mastering the Language of Influence” by Shelle Rose Charvet.


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