If you’ve been a Personal Trainer for some time you’ve experienced it. If you’re just starting out in the industry you WILL experience it. The Energy Vampire! That person that seems to suck the life out of you every session they’re there. That person that always has an issue. Always has something wrong and always, always unloads those problems on to you. vampYou can picture that person in your mind can’t you?

Now lets look at how we approach this session. “Ugh! I’ve got Mr or Ms Wingealot. Can’t wait for this” (you say sarcastically). “What is he or she going to go on about today”? You walk up to meet your client and sure enough, there he or she is, head down, weight of the world on their shoulders. You can already feel the barrage of woes that are about to be inflicted on you. And as you approach this person, you slow your pace down and take as much time as possible to get to them, already wishing the session is over.

Right now there are some trainers saying “that doesn’t happen to me, I’ve never had anyone like that, stop being so negative Chaddy”. My friends – I am not trying to be. I have felt this myself, and I have observed other coaches going through it as well. My question is; how do we change this? There is a lot of evidence to now state that your emotional state will effect others (look into Mirror Neurones and see just how powerful our brain and body are at interpreting other people’s emotions and how quickly we respond).

Again, how do we change this? Well as a coach of mine once said, “control what you can control”. What is the only thing you can control before this session even starts? You! You are in charge of your emotions (hmmm sometimes we should listen to our own advice ;D). You can control how you act in the first interaction with your client. I think the answer to how you can control your actions can be explained by something called the ‘Primacy Effect’. The primacy effect is a cognitive biased towards initial observation.

Basically, your first impression is how people will view you from then on, and it will influence everything they think about you from that point on. The other interesting thing here is that it takes a lot of work to reverse either a good or bad first impression. I like to describe the Primacy Effect as rose (good) or grey (bad) coloured glasses. If you get it right, everything you do to and for that person will be viewed as at the very least good. If you get it wrong everything you do will be perceived as not so good. Think about someone you know that you think is awesome. What was your first impression of them? If they get something wrong you just go, “oh well, they had an off day”. But if your initial bias towards a person (even a product) is bad, if something goes well, you say, “yer that’s ok”. But if something goes wrong! Look out! So in the case of the long term client, ok, yes, you’ve already made that first impression but I believe that understanding the five steps involved in the primacy effect can help you create a better session outcome and response for you and your client. The five keys to getting the primacy effect right are:vamp help

  1. Your intention: if your intention is to just get through the session and rush them out the door as fast as you can, they know. And they can sense it. They can feel that they are bothering you and so they will be even more likely to have woes. You need to change your self-talk here to make sure that your intention is to help your client and to create a trusting and positive environment (easier said than done sometimes, but try it).
  2. Confidence: be confident that it is going to be a good session. Know that at the very least you will be positive and create an environment that your client enjoys. Your emotions show up in your posture, so at least walk out to meet your client with fantastic proud posture and give them confidence in you. If you walk up slow and hunched over, this does not inspire confidence in fact it inspires quite the opposite. If you would like to see just how powerful the effect your posture has, click on this link to see a TED talk by Amy Cuddy, titled Your body language shapes who you are.
  3. Enthusiasm: Ok, this may seem a little weird, but try it anyway. Skip to your next energy vampire session. Actually just skip around the room now. Go on, just try and be morose while you skip around. Oh and for added bonus points, try whistling or singing while you do. I know, let’s go even further and, if possible, have your client skip into your facility! Again, control what you can control. How you approach this person at the start of the session will go a long way to influencing them.
  4. Willingness to listen: You know what, your client may actually need to get some stuff off their chest. So, listen to them. There are five stages of listening (oooh, there’s another blog) and getting this right, letting them feel that they’ve been heard could just be the catalyst to putting that person on happy street. Maybe you could find creative ways to let that person move and vent their grievances at the same time.
  5. Presentation: How do you look? As a former junior coach of mine said, “tuck your jersey in and pull your socks up. At least you’ll look like a good player”. Let your presentation make you look confident and that you care about your role in this person’s life. Be punctual, be clean oh and brush your teeth!!

There you go, the next time you have a session with Mr or Ms Wingealot, remember; firstly they’re paying you to train them! So make it about, them! Also remember that your intention, confidence, enthusiasm, willingness to listen and presentation will go a very long way in dictating how the duration of that session goes. Either that, or walk around with a big wreath of garlic around your neck. ;D If you’d like to learn more on the primacy effect and motivation visit PTAG and look at the Bridging Course.skip

I’m off to skip around the room….