As an exercise professional, what’s your most important asset to your client? Your education and training? Yes, you must instill confidence in your clients. But a top-notch certification won’t prevent you from losing clients. Trust More than competency, a fitness professional must gain trust. Entrusted with client health and safety, you must be more than competent; you must be honest--about what you can do for clients and how much they can do for themselves. And that’s not all. You can’t over-promise or under-promise. You must be prepared, organized, and punctual--and do your best within the scope of your knowledge, experience, and education. Be honest with yourself about how much you don’t know. Honesty Honesty means ethics. Even the certifying agency, the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF), requires exercise professionals to honestly communicate with clients about trainer competency, factual information, and conflicts of interest. Empathy Communication, sensitivity, and openness are part of the job. You have to know what motivates your clients, the values they hold, and the psychological framework they come to you with--and that takes listening. When you earnestly listen, you place your client’s interests first and obtain the crucial information that helps you do your job. Knowing your client’s true needs arms you for arising challenges that endanger your client relationship. These client relations tools--knowledge, trust, honesty, and empathy--help when your client wants to give up on her diet, fears certain yoga poses, or psychologically sabotages himself from achieving his goals. Managing Clients Let’s say, you teach yoga. Carol attends your beginner-intermediate class, and at the same point in the class each week, fails to achieve headstand. You know she wants to do the pose because she attempts it every week, but after a couple of tries, she gives up. She’s mentioned that she doesn’t think she can do that pose and doubts whether she’s in the right class. In your experience, you know there’s a fine line between “pushing” clients to reach their goals and respecting them to know their own limitations. If you leave her to decide on her own, she may feel ignored and not return to class. So you talk to Carol sincerely. Ask her if she’s afraid or unsure how to do headstand. Maybe she’s embarrassed to fall in front of the class. Listen carefully to her words and cues to discover if she really wants to do headstand. If she does, ask yourself whether you can help her. Do you have enough expertise? Can you help her psychologically and physically to achieve her goals? Let go of ego. Perhaps you can’t get Carol past her fear or physical limitations. Consider the effect of saying, “You can’t or shouldn’t do this.” Ethically, what are your obligations? Respect that she knows her own capabilities, but know you’re a trained professional with valuable advice. Face it, you’re a business person, trusted expert, and community member. Your responsibilities range far and local. Your partnership with your client is forged with a combination of training, experience, and innate abilities--your most effective tools to manage your client relations.