You inspire others to feel successful and connected. You’re good at adapting to others’ needs. You’re optimistic, influential, and self-aware. Who are you? Well, you could be anyone, but you’re probably a fitness professional. Whether you’re a club manager, personal trainer, or Zumba instructor, you’re in the business of helping people reach their goals. It’s a sticky business. You must tune into both your clients’ needs and how you affect them. In other words, you must continually sharpen your keen awareness of self and others to build constructive relationships. The best fitness leaders and employees develop strong, effective relationship management skills. Relationship Management As a fitness professional, your job description includes encouragement, influence, and motivation. Aside from knowing kinesiology, human anatomy, sports psychology, nutrition, biomechanics, and physiology, you must manage others’ emotions, whether that’s conflict, struggle, insecurity, or pride. All people who seek a gym, personal trainer, or fitness instructor want to change themselves, get healthier, stronger, or leaner. But it’s not easy. People come to fitness with mixed emotions, running the gamut from excitement to fear, and when they’re pushed to challenge themselves physically, emotionally, or mentally, the fitness professional must be equipped to guide, manage and incite their optimal responses. As the professional, you have to make a difference, be the spark that keeps their desire’s flame burning through the tough process of change. Rapport In personal or group training, top fitness professionals establish a connection during the brief time with their clients each class or session, over the entire length of that ongoing relationship. In training others or exhorting them to perform, you naturally develop trust and mutual understanding by the very nature of the relationship. Clients not only depend on you to teach them but to teach them safely. They rely on your training, know-how, and concern. They trust you won’t hurt them. They need to feel you care, and they’re safe. Relationship skills that foster trust, understanding, and empathy build that rapport. Your personality and ability to see others and yourself empathetically--to connect and make others feel they belong--engender communication, one of the most critical components of the fitness guide and client relationship. You can’t fake genuineness. Client’s sense when you don’t care. If you’re not naturally empathetic and caring, you’ll have to learn to build rapport through honest communication, attention to details the client reveals about him or himself, and sustained interest in the client’s progress, goals, and setbacks. Curiosity helps. And you must be able to reveal yourself too so that the trust and communication are mutual. Emotional Intelligence Finally, relationship management skills require emotional intelligence (EI). In an article by Terry Ferebee Eckman, Ph.D., titled “Emotional Intelligence Makes a Difference,” emotional intelligence is “the ability to perceive and express emotion...understand and reason with emotion and regulate emotion in self and others.” Psychology Today adds EI’s “the ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.” That’s what you do. You’re a fitness leader.