How can students (and all of us) learn to be less stiff and robotic when talking about massage? And how much personality can we show as professionals? We answer these great questions from a massage educator!
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Michael Reynolds Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I am Michael Reynolds.
Allissa Haines And I’m Allissa Haines.
MR And we are your hosts. We have got another Q&A episode for you. We are glad you’re here. Thanks for joining us today. So our question today is on personal versus professional and kind of the right mix of each one. So this is from Bethany. Let’s play our question, and we will get to it.
Listener question Hi Allissa and Michael, this is Bethany. I’m a massage instructor at my local massage school. One thing I struggled with during my early years as a professional is learning how to sound professional without coming off as stiff or robotic. Some of my students in the 18 to 30 age bracket are also concerned about how much they should lighten up and show their personalities while still maintaining a professional image. It’s like we have this image in our heads of what professional looks like, and we’re kind of scared to break out of that box. So my question to you is what is the optimal percentage of personality to pepper in to one’s professional persona. Thank you.
MR Great question, Bethany. Awesome.
AH I love this. I love it so much. But who is our sponsor today, Michael?
MR We’re going to talk about one of our favorite products from Pure Pro.
AH Yeah, man. I am slathered in this stuff right now myself.
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MR It is a mouthful. But you pull it off well.
AH It really is.
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AH So Michael, because you do a lot of speaking, I want you to start —
AH — with the first part of Bethany’s question about how to handle feeling really stiff and robotic when talking about massage or anything.
MR Sure, I can do that. And by the way —
AH Bring it.
MR — you probably heard there is some construction going on in my office. So it stopped now, but some drilling may start. It’s right above my head. So sorry about that. We’re just going to go with it, but if you hear drilling and background noise, they’re apparently tearing down the floor above my office, so sorry about that, folks. Just warn you.
AH I didn’t notice it, so we’re fine.
MR Okay. Well, I did because it’s super loud. It’s right above me. So anyway.
So yeah, the right mix of personal versus professional. This is a really deep topic, and Allissa, I’ve heard you actually wrote the book on this. So I can’t wait to hear your thoughts as well. But yeah, it’s really — it’s a huge discussion, but in general I like to lean — just my bottom line is I lean toward being more personal and being yourself. I think a lot of us as we get into business and we spend a longer time building a business and we spend more time in our professional lives. We just get — we overdo the professional part of it sometimes. We get kind of stiff and robotic and we think we have to be always buttoned up all the time and speak a certain way and act a certain way. I mean, that’s fine to a point, but I really think there’s a craving in the world for authenticity and personality. I really like when businesses are — have a personality and the people behind them show their personality.
To me, it’s setting the right boundaries and not being, kind of, too over the top with it. But on a spectrum of super personal and probably inappropriate, and the other end of the spectrum, which is hey, boring and robotic, and buttoned-up all the time, I like leaning a little bit more toward showing your personality. I really like saying, hey, on social media, here’s my dog and my family and my thoughts about x, y, and z and what I’m eating and stuff like that. It seems silly, but people relate to you move as a person if you show that you’re a real person. So that’s kind of my take on things is to not be afraid to show who you really are as a person. It’s a very personal business that we’re in. Massage therapists are — it’s a very one-on-one, personal kind of business we have where we’re working with people and improving their lives and enriching their lives, and I think it’s appropriate to show a little personality and be yourself. So that’s kind of my summarized way to answer that. I don’t know if that’s helpful or not.
AH It’s helpful, but it didn’t answer my question.
AH The first part of the question, which is how do you get over sounding and feeling stiff and robotic when you’re talking to people about massage.
AH So I’ll answer it. [Laughing]
MR I totally misunderstood your question. But here, let me try again. How do you get over it? Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t bother answering it because I’m not really sure. I just try to get excited about what I’m talking about. So if you’re — I mean, if someone’s asking you about massage, and you want to not come off as sounding stiff and robotic, I mean, I really try to draw on my passion and excitement for what I’m talking about. So let that show, I guess, is kind of my advice. Don’t be afraid to talk about how you really feel about what you’re talking about because ideally you are excited about massage and you are excited about the benefits, and I think that will come through if you let it come through.
AH All right, so let me jump in with my thoughts.
MR Translation: big fail on Michael’s part. Allissa, answer the question.
AH Not a fail. I don’t think that at all. I think that we come at this with different approaches. So I really feel for this because I’m so uncomfortable talking about massage. I didn’t want to come off as arrogant and thinking that massage could cure everything everybody asked me about. Because when you’re a massage student, people are like, oh, can massage help me with my ACL tear? Can massage help me with my rotator cuff thing? Can massage help me with my irritable bowel syndrome? And you want to help people, so you want to be like yes, it maybe — it probably can.
But you can go in a couple of wrong ways with this. One, you can get super hyper technical when you’re talking about massage, and you could also get kind of, I’m going to say, hippy dippy about it. So it’s hard to find your middle ground and your space where you feel comfortable. For — I can say for me, talking about massage so that I didn’t feel really stiff and like I was getting over-clinical or overly helpful, for me, it really helps — and I think everybody should be doing this — is to really, in your own mind and sometimes even out loud, acknowledge that there’s a lot we don’t know. So when someone says something like can massage help with my knee issue — and when anyone asks me if massage can help with anything, I start with maybe. There’s a lot about massage that can be helpful, and we don’t understand a lot about why, but let me tell you what I’ve seen. Let me tell you what I’ve learned in school, which is that if all of the muscles — where’s your pain? If all the stuff around the knee is really tight and splinting because it’s trying to protect your injured knee, I can probably take the edge off that. Or if somebody asks about massage for migraines, you can say, well, a lot of times it depends on what’s causing that headache. If it’s muscle tension in the neck, some things like that, I can — massage can probably help. Did your doctor tell you what they think is causing the migraine? That’s going to help you get a more conversational flow. When someone asks a question about massage, how — asking questions back can help you get a more conversational flow and that can be really useful.
If you’re just talking about massage to a group, presentations to not sound stiff and robotic, you just got to practice. You got to practice and practice and practice. And you need to — I find — I don’t want to say you need to — it helps to use bullet points instead of fully written scripts so that your sentences are in a flow, and it’s okay to flub up on occasion and start a sentence and have it end a totally different way than you thought it was going to — and that happens a lot on this podcast and you’re still listening, so I guess we’re doing all right. So practicing and coming from a place of well, here’s what I know about massage, here’s what I learned. Let’s see if that can help you, versus a I want to find all of the clinical answers and be exactly medically perfect in my answer, which you can’t be. You just can’t be because we don’t know enough. We just don’t. So that’s the part about being stiff and robotic. Practice and approach everything as a conversation. That’s that part.
So the second part of this — of Bethany’s question, which I really love, is about personality. How do you inject your personality into your business, into your practice, into your conversations about massage and with potential referral partners, and anyone — and potential clients without it being too much? Can you be personal and have some personality and be professional? And we say, of course, yes. And this is really — Michael reminded me of this a lot early on in our friendship and early on in our collaborations where I’d be like, I don’t understand marketing at all, and he’s like, it’s just about relationships. Marketing is about relationships. And massage therapists are great at that. We are so good at building relationships. You have to start — it’s about connecting, right? Massage is weird. Massage and bodywork is an odd experience. We meet people, a few minutes later they take their clothes off or place themselves in a very vulnerable position with us, and then we touch them. That’s weird. So you’ve got to have a pretty great gift — and you do if you’re making it okay through massage school — for doing that and helping people feel comfortable.
We don’t want to all get too comfortable, and I think that’s definitely what Bethany is approaching here. What are the ways to let a little personality show through without being too much? And I say let a whole bunch — you want to be yourself, but you need to be a professional version of yourself. Now, you hanging out with your friends at any age — hanging out with your peers where you goof off and you make inappropriate jokes or whatever, is a lot different than the self when you are picking a kid up from preschool. That is a very different version of yourself. So you want to be yourself, but the most professional version of yourself. And it’s mostly about boundaries.
So here are the landmines. Sometimes it’s hard to say what to do. It’s easier to say what not to do. So let me do a little not to do, and then I’m going to veer back into a more positive, proactive approach. You want to be yourself, unless you’re a jerk. And by that, I mean unless you’re surly and grumpy and super sarcastic, maybe that’s your personality. It’s kind of mine; I get it. You want to — I’m not saying you want to go polar opposite and be happy cheerleader mode whenever a client walks in the door. But it could be that your edges need to be smoothed when — okay, and I just need to note that the power just went out in my office.
So Michael, are you still there?
MR Yeah, I can still hear you just fine.
AH Okay, good.
MR [Laughing] The interwebs are still flowing.
AH [Laughing] I have a hard line in my computer, and we’re having some storms here. Or all of my space heaters just made all the power go out. So let me just turn my space heaters off so that if power comes back on, I don’t get blasted with things. I have a hard line and I have plenty of battery in my computer. So sorry about that interlude. You can edit that out of you want to, Michael.
MR [Laughing] This is an example of being real and personal. So we’re going to go with it. [Laughing]
AH This is real and personal, everyone.
So if you consider the way — if you’re a real tough, surly person, consider how your edges can be smoothed to improve the client’s experience, you know? If a client walks in and they do the obligatory, hey, how are you? You don’t want to be like, ugh. So maybe smooth that edge of your personality.
Be yourself, unless you are a flirt. If you are a highly sexualized person or just in general very flirty and casually touchy, rein it in. If you are anywhere — if you are just a super friendly person and often gets misconstrued as flirting with people, that is something you need to rein in in this profession. Don’t do it. Don’t giggle. Don’t do a hair flip. Don’t make jokes about sex. Just don’t. Just absolutely don’t.
Be yourself, unless you have a guilt complex. If you’re someone who likes to give and give and you tend to overcommit, you got some boundary problems, and it’s not an effective way to run a business, and over time, it’s just going to be a really unhealthy situation for you. So if you are a people pleaser and you find yourself saying yes to things you don’t want to say yes to, that will carry over into your new business or your new employment situation, and that’s going to be unhealthy for you. So if you have a guilt complex, you need to examine that.
If you’re a pushover with your schedule — which kind of veers into this guilt complex thing — you will have to practice ways to say no, to say, I’m sorry, I’m so booked up — I’m entirely booked up that week.
You want to be yourself, unless you are a slob. If you are super messy and don’t like to clean your office, that’s not a good way to be yourself in front of clients, obviously. And just in general messiness, and I’m not just talking about a pile of dirty dishes next to your office sink.
So there’s that. Those are the boundary and professionalism concerns. But you can be yourself in a whole bunch of other ways. You can decorate your workspace in a way that is really representative of who you are. It doesn’t have to be a stale dentist office gray with some generic landscape prints. You want to find — if you’re super into video games, let’s say, and you work on and you want to work on a lot of people who are coders and desk jockeys and creative types and you’re going to work a lot on upper body issues and — it would be awesome to have your waiting room be Super Mario Bros. themed or to have a whole display case of all your favorite action characters, like action figures. You can do that. It’s okay because there’s nothing surly or off-putting or sexual or anything about that. It’s totally fine to inject that level of personality into your office space.
In your website, in the images you use on your website, that is going to be tone. We’re kind of getting into branding and stuff, but you can put personal bits of you on your website. In your bio, you can say that you love hiking different parts of the Appalachian trail. I don’t know, whatever. You can say that you’re — one of your hobbies is trying every local restaurant in a 10-mile radius, or if you’re my nephew, trying every restaurant that has fried pickles as an appetizer. That’s his mission in life is to go to every restaurant in New England that has fried pickles as an appetizer. That’s okay. That’s something to put in there because it’s not angry or inappropriate or sexual or weird. It doesn’t share too much personal information. It doesn’t give I used to travel to every restaurant in New England for fried pickles with an appetizer with my ex-husband, but after we had a terrible fight and I left him, we stopped doing that. That does not belong in your bio. The fried pickles can.
So you got to kind of know your limits, and that’s hard to do. And really it’s hard to do as a student because a lot of the people you’re practicing on and who might become your first set of clients are often people like friends and family, so there’s that boundary and dual relationship thing.
But you can do this. And that’s kind of my what to watch for. And — I mean, again, I literally, in 2011, wrote a little e-book called Marketing with Personality. I was not able to find the most recent version of it. I found the first version. I’m still looking. And if I can find it, we will put it out there as a PDF for everyone. I can’t commit to that right now, but soon hopefully. In a month or two.
And then, Michael, I’m really done now.
MR Well, your answer was a thousand times better than mine, so thank you. That was great. [Laughing]
AH Ain’t a problem. I aim to please.
MR Yeah. All right, well, thank you, Bethany. We appreciate the question. Awesome question and great discussion. If anyone else out there would like — oh, you know what? We can’t say that anymore because we’re done.
AH Yeah, we are.
MR [Laughing] We are actually full on questions, so we’ve done our 12 — actually, not yet. We have, I think, one more after this, but —
AH I am actually cool still accepting questions —
MR You are?
AH — because we might do this again.
MR Yeah, sure.
AH And we can use these questions in our regular episodes. So I would like you to encourage people to ask questions and to tell them how.
MR All right. Well, I will go ahead and encourage people to ask questions and tell you how. So to do that, if you want to ask a question just like Bethany did — and there’s the construction I can hear, so maybe you can’t hear it, but it’s right above my head. [Laughing]. So if you’d like to send a question, you can do so at massagebusinessblueprint.com/talk. And again, you can push that button and speak your question just like Bethany did. And again, just like Bethany did, you can give us kind of what your thoughts are, what your question is. Don’t feel like you have to be super polished. Just speak from the heart; just tell us what you’re thinking. And we would love to hear from you, and we will roll your question most likely into a future episode either now or later. So again, that’s massagebusinessblueprint.com/talk.
So thanks, Bethany. Thanks, everyone, for joining us today. We appreciate you being part of our community, and we will see you next time.