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How To Use Non-Verbal Cues To Build A Client’s Trust


Communication between a personal trainer and a client is very important. Plenty of advice has been written about how to communicate verbally; what to say, what questions to ask, how to respond to questions, etc. But there are also a number of non-verbal things you can do to help build trust with your clients. We discuss some of these here...

1) Establish and maintain eye contact most of the time

When you’re in conversation with one of your clients, try to keep eye contact with them as much as possible. You don’t need to keep your eyes locked on them at all times as if you’re having a staring contest, but always look at your clients when one of you is saying anything to the other.

Eye contact can serve two useful purposes. It indicates to someone that you’re concentrating on what they’re saying, and it can help drive home the importance of something you’re saying to the person you’re speaking to.

Use your eyes to draw the attention of your client while you’re explaining how to do an exercise movement or telling them anything else. Make them feel like you take seriously anything they have to say to you by looking them in the eyes whenever they speak to you.

2) Don't just describe, demonstrate

Always demonstrate a particular thing on the first occasion you tell your client to do it. Don’t expect the client to understand how to do it just from your verbal instructions, and definitely don’t just direct them to the instructions and diagrams on a machine if you’re using one. If they wanted to learn from instructions on a gym machine, they wouldn’t be paying you.

The best way to go about it is to demonstrate the action yourself first while simultaneously explaining what you’re doing (or explain verbally first then demonstrate), and then have them do it for the first time while providing verbal instructions until they can do it properly themselves.

3) Get down with your client

You always want your client to feel that you respect them and that the two of you are a team, and never want them to feel that you’re talking down to them or asserting dominance.

A good way to achieve this is to always put yourself at eye level with your client. For example, if they’re doing push-ups, mirror them by getting down into the corresponding position opposite your client and mirroring the push-ups while saying “up” and “down”, as opposed to standing over them.

4) See all the angles

When watching your client exercise, try to rotate around them and observe them from different angles. This practice is useful for two reasons. Firstly, it helps to show a client that you’re completely focused on them and on making sure they’re doing things right. Secondly, it helps you assess alignment and postural issues and identify any problems.

There are of course situations when you will need to be stationary, like when you’re spotting or assisting with an exercise. And when you do rotate your proximity to the client to get views from different angles, do so slowly, don’t dart around them in rapid circles or you’ll distract them.

5) Use your hands wisely

Hand motions are an excellent way to help convey a message you’re trying to get across verbally. Great speakers have always used their hands for this purpose. As a personal trainer, you should know how to use your hands to help deliver instructions.

When you tell clients to do an exercise, use your hands and fingers to indicate the parts of the body (on their bodies or yours) that they should feel the burn in if they’re doing the exercise properly. Use your hands to put them in the correct position for doing an exercise or to stop them from leaning out of position while they’re getting the hang of something.

NOTE: Make sure to check first that it’s okay with the client if you make physical contact with them.

Try to avoid doing things like putting your hands in your pockets and crossing your arms.

6) Don't stop to rest until your client does

Do not sit down and rest or appear to switch off or relax in any way during a training session unless you’ve already told your client to stop and take a breather and you’re sitting down with them.

If you appear to be relaxing or showing signs of tiredness or boredom while the client is still working out, that will almost always come across negatively in the client’s eyes. To give yourself the best chance of retaining the client for additional sessions, you need to appear fully focused on that client for every minute of your time together.

As a personal trainer, of course you’ll get tired, hungry or complacent at times, you’re only human. But that’s the nature of the job. The client is paying for your services and you need to deliver them consistently.

7) Stay off the phone

Do not look at or use your phone for any reason not related to the client you’re with during a training session, not even if you’re both taking a water break or something. Your client is paying for and will expect your undivided attention at all times.

It’s fine to use your phone to make notes about or access information relevant to the client and the training you’re doing with them, but make sure you tell the client first that that’s what you’re doing, so they don’t get the wrong idea.

8) Give them a more personal experience

By adding a few personal touches to a personal training session, you can make your client feel you care about them and be more than just the training who counts reps and yells encouragement.

These are examples of some extra touches you can add to the time you spend with a client:
What you want to do is make the client feel like you want to help them because you are interested in them as a person as well as a client.

  • Smile at them whenever you make eye contact
  • Help them wipe down their equipment after they’ve finished exercising
  • Get them a towel before the session
  • Help them to move and load weights
  • Show them a fitness or nutrition article that would be useful to them

Thanks for reading. If you have anything to say or have any questions, please leave us a comment below…


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