We do it all the time – ask someone how they are. But how much do we really mean it? Is it just a conventional social exchange when you see someone after a period of time has elapsed? The difference between asking how someone is to be polite and asking because you truly are concerned about the other person’s well-being is compassion. As a spa or massage professional, you have many opportunities to convey your compassion regarding a client’s well-being. Research indicates just how beneficial your compassionate communication can be. In "Compassion Really is Good Medicine,” published a few years ago in Massage Magazine, writer Ann Catlin points to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that showed “40 seconds of compassionate communication from a physician could reduce anxiety among breast cancer patients, as well as increase the patient’s confidence in the doctor and positively impact the doctor-patient relationship.”
Catlin, an LMT, and an NCTMB and OTR maintain that while compassion is a natural human quality, you can cultivate it through training, unlike emotions that we experience spontaneously. Catlin asserts that by cultivating compassion, it becomes more of your nature or part of your world view so that your communication, verbal or through touch, is inherently compassionate. In this way, outcomes of client sessions have an impact that lasts in-between visits.
Start by Listening
Compassion starts with active listening. When you ask your clients questions and listen to their responses with a genuine feeling of concern, you have a better understanding of what is troubling them, their likes and dislikes, and what they want from your bodywork. You also tend to accept your clients and be less apt to judge them when you learn what is important to them. If a client is engaging in an activity that is causing them harm, you may come to understand what is behind the behavior by listening with compassion.