“How’s your week going?” Undoubtedly, you probably ask that question – or something like it -- many times throughout the week of spa or massage practice clients. For some clients, that simple question can be a door opener to unburden themselves of their troubles. Here’s when empathy - your ability to feel what your client is experiencing – makes you a real healer and not only a competent practitioner. Your empathy for your clients also makes the experience shared so that you begin to build a strong relationship.
You may be sympathetic to a client’s problem, whether you are treating them with therapeutic massage to relieve muscle pain or helping to alleviate stress with an aromatherapy massage. However, to create a real person-to-person empathetic encounter with your clients may mean making some changes in the way you interact.
In “How to Be Empathetic,” Dr. Elliot Cohen points out, “The first one does not simply empathize with another person; rather one emphasizes with another about something.” This means empathizing with someone truly; you need to know about the other person’s welfare, interests, and needs.
The first step to becoming empathetic is to listen. When you are with your client, focus and listen intently. Don’t try to formulate an opinion or offer advice right away. Only after you truly understand what your client is telling you should you offer feedback. Even then, the goal is to help someone solve their problem or help them see it in a different light.
Here are other ways to become more empathetic:
Use your imagination
Imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes. Listen to other's experiences and feelings with an open mind. Don’t judge the other person or apply your own values to the situation. You can’t feel what someone feels if you view their situation entirely from your own perspective.
Be sensitive to the feelings of others; don’t ignore or trivialize them. Sensitivity is part of effective listening.
Be honest, though try to be tactful while doing so. Give honest explanations, especially related to what you are doing to help a client during the session.
Share your own feelings
You gain trust with others when you share your feelings with them. People feel more connected when both of you are opening up to each other.
Let your clients know that you appreciate them. When you say thank you, mean it. Also, by showing your appreciation, you are conveying that you care. You don’t want a client to feel you only care about them during the time they are with you but that your concern for their well-being continues after the session is over.
When you bring empathy to the table, you can increase the healing potential. Even outside your spa or massage practice, being more empathetic enriches your life as well as the lives of others.