The definition of communication can be very simple. It is an exchange of information (such as thoughts, feelings, needs, perceptions and knowledge) between at least two living beings. If only the act of communicating was as straight forward as defining it! The world around us offers a plethora of opportunities/mechanisms to communicate with others and each of these options has their pros and cons.

Face to face communication allows both the sender and the receiver the ability to add body language and tone of voice to information they process when determining what the intended message is or how it is being perceived. This allows the individuals involved the ability to adjust their communication styles to ensure resolution. Resolution, in this case, being a successful transfer of information where the parties involved are able to accurately convey their intended message. Sometimes people find it hard to communicate face to face because they are shy or scared of the reaction their message may elicit from the receiver. In these cases written communication may seem safer.

Once upon a time, written communication meant breaking out paper and pencil to jot down a note or compose a letter that wouldn’t be received or responded to immediately. However, in today’s world of technology, written (typed, texted, chatted) communication is often instantaneous. These options can help simplify and speed up communication, but they can also muddy the waters as individuals are not always careful about how they construct their message. This lack of proximity can create anonymity and reduce empathy. The sender of a harsh message has the benefit (or disadvantage) of escaping the pained expression on the receiver’s face or hearing the held back tears in their quivering voice.

In order for massage therapist to be effective in our jobs (and businesses) it is important for us to choose communication styles that work for us. We have to gather the information we need to provide the best service possible so our clients feel their needs are understood.

Starting a Session

Intake, Intake, Intake! Doing a thorough intake of a client in each session allows you to connect with how they are today. Just because you have worked with them before doesn’t mean something hasn’t happened since the last session that you should know about. Initial intake with a new client will take longer than touching base with an existing client, but both are important to continually tending to the client’s needs. Intake forms, including medical history, give you written records and when combined with discussion regarding existing conditions and depth preferences, and therapeutic assessment such as postural and movement analysis will allow you to create a whole picture of the client and their needs.

During the Session

It is important to ask the client simple questions like “how is the pressure” or “how is the temperature for you”, but in session communication goes much deeper. Therapists who pay attention can use this communication to refine the work they are providing to make the session more effective for the client. Look, feel and listen for cues that let you know if the client is experiencing pain or discomfort at any level. This can be conveyed by them talking excessively, tensing up or irregular breathing patterns.

After the Session

It is a good idea to ask the client how they are feeling after the session using specific terms. If they came in with limited range of motion at a joint, you may want to ask them to move the limb around and tell you how it feels now. It is also a good practice to call 24 to 48 hours later to check in again and perhaps reschedule if they haven’t already. This lets the client know you are thinking about them and are concerned with their well-being. Regardless of how you elect to communicate (phone, text, email, chat, etc) with your clients be sure that you are consistent, empathetic and deliberate in the language you use. If any misunderstanding occurs when communicating electronically it may be best to pick up the phone or set a meeting to attempt to resolve the issue. These options can be better suited to allow you each to convey confusion or frustration. Remember just because the words are heard, it doesn’t mean the message is understood.