Working with Fitness Clients

When Clients or Your Class Students Make You Feel Bad

Have you ever felt pissed when an inconsiderate student showed up late to your class, forgot their grip socks, talked to their friend while you were teaching and then, to top it off, rolled their eyes at you? That was so irritating, right? Or what about that time that one anonymous person (but you really know who it was, right?) wrote that scathing online review of you for the entire world and your manager to see? Did that hurt your feelings? They shouldn’t have done that, right?

As much as I want to sit down, give you a hug and tell you I’ve been there before (because girlfriend, have I ever), one of the most powerful concepts I learned during my life coach training and certification program is The Manual and it changed everything for me and how I reacted to other people’s actions–such as rolling eyes and bad reviews.

What’s a Manual?

When you get something like a new smartwatch, it comes with a manual. A manual is an instruction book on how you can expect that watch to perform. There’s a list of things it can do and an implied list of things it shouldn’t do, right? Well, what if you ignored the watch’s manual and you just decided to write your own. Let’s say your manual said that the watch would automatically alert you when an explicit-lyric song somehow made it into your Silver Sneakers playlist before Ethel and Melvin ever hear anything about dropping their (rhymes with passes) to the floor. When Ethel stops and tells you she doesn’t like that song, not one bit, not one bit young lady, do you get angry at the watch? Because the watch didn’t follow your manual? No, that doesn’t make sense.

Well, what about Ethel? Do you have a manual for her? It might just be in your head, but you probably have a manual on how Ethel or any student or client of yours should behave in your class or training session. Let’s make a list of all the things our Ethels should be doing according to our manual:

They should be on time, wear appropriate workout clothing, bring their grip socks or other proper footwear, follow your verbal cues, mirror your moves, have rhythm, have body awareness, know what a plank is and be able to hold it, modify when it’s so completely obvious they should, do what you tell them to do, be nice to you, be understanding that sometimes you’re tired and mess up, laugh at your jokes (but not too loud ’cause that’s weird), be appreciative of the hard work you put into your class, like your music, give you a good review whenever they can, post on social media about how much they love you and, at the end of class, tell you what an amazing job you did.

And what about the shouldn’ts! They shouldn’t be late, interrupt you, question your cuing, start doing their own little thing while still in your class, talk to the person next to them, answer their phone, bring their kid, tell you they think you’re doing it wrong, tell you they don’t like your music, turn your volume down for you, object to your touching them for tactile cuing, but they also shouldn’t touch you, especially your face because seriously WTF??? They shouldn’t just not show up for a 6:00 a.m. reservation with you. They shouldn’t wear too much makeup or perfume or, gag, cologne. They shouldn’t fart, burp or sweat weird–but some sweat is okay as long as they instagram it and tag you with a ‘got my a** kicked by’ you in it. Okay we love those, right? They shouldn’t tell you they like another teacher better. They shouldn’t show up for Level Advanced when they clearly are still a beginner. They shouldn’t roll their eyes at you, ignore you, or refuse to follow you back on social media. And they definitely, no matter what, should NOT leave a bad online review of you.

See what I mean? You’ve got a manual for Ethel, don’t you?

The problem with all of this is that Ethel, Melvin and the rest of your clients or students can do or not do anything they want. They’re going to do it. When you tie your emotional happiness or unhappiness to whether your students follow your manual, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. You can’t control other people and their behavior. But you know what you can control? Your thoughts.

We may think that bad review caused us to feel angry, or sad, or embarrassed or self-righteousness, but it’s our thoughts about that review that cause us to feel one way or the other. One teacher could get a review and think, ‘what an idiot–I’m awesome.’ Another could get them same review and think ‘I’m horrible, I’m going to get fired, I’m a failure, I should quit.’ Same review, different thoughts. Different thoughts lead to different feelings which then lead to different actions and completely different results. Which teacher do you think is going to keep teaching like a bad ass?

The good news is that your thoughts are optional. You may not be able to control other people’s actions, but you can control your thoughts. When you have that awkward moment when a student chooses the middle of your barre class to start changing her clothes in the middle of the room, or they give you a scathing look as they leave and you’re sweetly saying, ‘hope you had a good time,’ or they leave that review blaming you for just not liking the workout, you get to control how you think about it.

Once you learn about the manual and you learn to stop blaming your emotions on your students and their actions, it opens up a world of possibility for you. You control your thoughts. Boom! Mindblowing. This skill will carry over into your other areas of life such as dealing with your significant other and relatives during the holidays. It’s amazing.

If you don’t try to learn the skill of managing your manual, then changing careers, changing relationships, or starting an online business won’t change that. You’ll always face other people and their actions and the fact that sometimes, they don’t follow your manual. If you recognize that your thoughts, not their actions or inactions, cause your feelings, you’ll be ready to take on the world.

If you think you may have a manual for your students or your clients, or if you want to talk about learning how your thoughts may be limiting your career choices, or if you find you tie your emotions to online reviews a bit too much, set up a free 30 minute call with me. Let’s talk about it. You can learn about my Empowerment Coaching here and sign up for a free 30 minute call by clicking below.

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