The Role of Communication in Massage Therapy

Massage therapist using communication to connect with her client

Communication is the foundation of therapeutic relationships. Only by listening and speaking with authority can massage therapists contribute to their clients’ wellness. A skillful give and take are not only essential for successful treatment; they’re the key to building a loyal customer base and a rewarding career.

Characteristics of Effective Communication

Communication with clients is a two-way street, but as wellness professionals, massage therapists should take the lead. The person communicating is responsible for the interpretation of what they say and how it is received. Massage therapists can enhance the power of their messages by ensuring they’re concise, concrete, courteous, timely, and correct.

Concise

Concise messages are brief and to the point. While not forgoing the friendly chit chat that establishes a certain comfort between clients and massage therapists, essential points should be condensed. Eliminating redundant or irrelevant information helps the client focus. Brief explanations of the types of massage a therapist offers, for example, narrow down the choices and makes decision-making easier.

Concrete

Concrete messages go beyond written or spoken words. They appeal to a broad range of senses and learning styles. When massage therapists discuss the benefits of massage, the use of props such as charts, models and video presentations reinforce the message. They appeal to visual, auditory and tactile learners alike and enhance their overall learning experience.

Courteous

Communication has emotional facets. Today’s massage therapists will work with clients from diverse cultural backgrounds, each with unique expectations. Considering a client’s age and background helps massage therapists frame conversation in a respectful and engaging way, opening the door to a natural two-way dialogue.

Timely

Therapeutic relationships are built on trust. When a client reaches out to their massage therapist, timely responses establish reliability. Returning phone calls and email is a must as well as approaching clients with helpful information when necessary. Letting regular customers know when a vacation is approaching is one example.

Correct

Spelling and grammatical errors detract from the credibility of communication. Messages should always reflect a massage therapist’s education and professional status. If a client imagines a massage while reviewing an ill-written brochure, they’ll assume the massage therapist will be equally careless and move on.

Types of Communication

Massage therapists use different methods of communication to relate to customers and to connect with the community through advertising. Massage therapists use verbal, written, and non-verbal communication.

Verbal Communication

The term verbal communication refers to spoken words, usually a person-to-person chat or a conversation over the telephone. Whether clients call or visit, it’s the most common type of interaction for massage therapists.

Verbal communication skills to master include confidence, humility and authenticity. Mirroring clients in their rate and tone of speech improves their comfort with a conversation.

Written Communication

Written communication comes in many forms, texts, e-mails, social media posts, brochures, letters, advertising, and teaching materials.

Qualities that make written words appealing to clients include simplicity, avoiding jargon and technical terms, and an easy-to-follow conversational tone. Sloppy grammar, spelling and punctuation reflects poorly on the writer. Proofreading really matters.

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication is a way of conveying emotion using body language. Gestures, posture and facial expressions can say more than words alone. But while body language can be used to make a point, it’s more often something people do subconsciously, and if the message is negative, the results can be disastrous.

Almost all communication is nonverbal. Making eye contact, for example, demonstrates caring and focus. Avoiding it suggests disinterest or guilt. Clients take cues from the body language they observe, so for a massage therapist, it pays to be aware of the signals they convey. A warm smile and a relaxed but upright posture can set the mood for a successful session.

With Whom Do Massage Therapists Communicate?

Massage therapists communicate with a wide range of people in both the therapeutic and business parts of their practice. They speak with clients, colleagues, managers, vendors, and communities.

Clients

Massage therapists communicate with clients before, during and after a massage. Each point of contact is an opportunity to connect and inform.

It begins by making an impression through advertising and promotional materials and continues when the client visits in person or makes an appointment over the phone. Massage therapists use their skills to gather the health information needed to create a treatment plan while communicating their professional expertise.

During the session, massage therapists communicate based on the client’s preference and therapeutic goals. Silence is relaxing if the objective is stress relief, but chit-chat could be preferable if the intent is to invigorate. It’s always critical, however, to ensure that massage therapy is achieving its goals. Massage therapists should ask clients if their techniques are hitting the mark.

Colleagues

A massage therapist at a spa or resort may work with dozens of colleagues, each with a different communication style. However, while it’s true that birds of a feather flock together, it’s important for everyone to get along.

A massage therapist’s relationship with coworkers can make or break their practice. Squabbles create workplace tension, leading to lost customers and staff. Getting along and working together generates a soothing atmosphere and sets the stage for mutual referrals. Constructive professional relationships benefit everyone.

Managers

Managers serve as leaders in multi-therapist practices, and like colleagues, they have unique ways of communicating.

Charged with the financial health of the business, they may make decisions that are not always popular. Massage therapists should communicate regularly with managers to stay on the same page, addressing concerns promptly and respectfully. Coordination is critical.

Vendors

Massage therapists with private practices work order their supplies with a vendor. Building rapport through mutual trust can lead to more favorable terms.

Communities

Massage therapists shouldn’t underestimate their impact on their communities. As wellness professionals, they’re ideally positioned to serve as resources. Outreach in the form of public service is a type of mutually beneficial communication. Examples of outreach opportunities for massage therapists include offering adult education classes and hosting informal seminars on the benefits of massage. It’s a way to establish a good reputation and meet potential clients.

What Role Does Communication Play in Massage Therapy?

Communication is a give and take. Massage therapists use their skills as communicators to promote themselves and to help clients better articulate their needs using professionalism, comfort, customer service, assessment, education and discretion.

Professionalism

Professionalism means living up to clients’ expectations. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) believes this concept is so important that it has created a code of ethics for the industry.

What does it say about communication? It requires massage therapists to:

  • Follow all regulatory requirements for the state in which they’re licensed.
  • Promote only those services for which they have the education and training.
  • Advertise honestly.
  • Avoid engaging in activities that may violate clients’ rights, including confidentiality.

Professionalism is also expected in dress, demeanor and attitude. Each is a form of communication and says something loud and clear about a massage therapist. It should always say something positive and authentic.

Comfort

A comfortable conversation can only occur when someone feels at ease. From the point of initial contact, it’s up to a massage therapist to make their clients feel relaxed. Relaxation enhances communication, which in turn builds rapport and trust. Clients who feel uncomfortable interacting for the first time with a massage therapist are unlikely to schedule services or ever come back.

Customer Service

Customers consistently rate service over price as their top criterion for choosing a massage therapist. Not surprisingly, their definition of “service” encompasses communication, prompt replies to inquiries and a friendly attitude as top the list of must-haves. Lack of personal attention and indifference to special requests are clients’ biggest pet peeve.

Massage therapy is a holistic art. More than a treatment, it’s an experience, any communication from the massage therapist should be a positive, affirming contribution.

Assessment

Assessing what the client wants and needs is paramount to a successful massage. Some people seek bodywork solely for stress relief while others want a targeted massage to heal an injury or reduce musculoskeletal pain.

While massage therapy is generally well-tolerated, there are medical considerations. A client on blood-thinning drugs, for example, will bruise easily, requiring a light touch and a gentle style of massage.

Before the first session with a new client, a massage therapist reviews their medical conditions and therapy goals. It requires a frank discussion and active listening, focusing on what the client says out loud as well what their body language suggests.

Most clients undress for massages, and for some, there are body image concerns, such as weight and scars. Courteous communication, making an effort to see barriers from the client’s point of view, is necessary to gain their confidence.

Education

Clients seeking massage are usually aware of some of its many benefits. They may have been referred by a doctor or a friend, but they rely on a massage therapist’s professional advice in choosing the most effective type of massage and how often to have them.

Massage therapists are educators at heart. They listen to clients and help them understand what to expect from a session from start to finish.

Discretion

Massage therapists aren’t bound by the same confidentiality laws as healthcare providers, but there are few circumstances short of cooperating with law enforcement officials that would justify divulging clients’ names without permission. In the personal service industry, it’s essential to protect clients’ privacy.

Communicating with Clients During a Massage

Experts agree, the amount of verbal communication that occurs during a massage should be based on the client’s preferences. Beyond that, professionals have different thoughts on how much talking is too much.

The unwritten rule is to converse as little as possible because, for clients who process emotions via touch, speaking can disrupt the process. They prefer to feel the benefits of massage.

However, select clients like to chat occasionally, letting their thoughts flow freely, while others need the constant drone of conversation to feel comfortable. The best way for massage therapists to approach the issue is to ask in advance, or simply respond to physical and verbal cues.

Final Thoughts

Communication is both an art and a science. Ideas are only valuable to clients if they’re articulated clearly, yet conversation should be approached skillfully and with sensitivity. Loyal clients are those who feel both heard and understood.

Want to Learn More?

Do you have the communication skills to be a successful massage therapist? If you are interested in the healing powers of massage, you can begin your career in massage therapy at Minnesota School of Cosmetology. Our short-term massage therapy training program is designed to be completed in as little as 5 months with full time enrollment*. Our massage therapy training program is designed as a holistic program that will prepare students to focus on body mechanics of their clients as well as develop positive habits for the therapist. Together, those two areas will provide a foundation that can lead to longevity in the career field.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a massage therapist and starting a rewarding career in the massage industry.

*Completion time for this program is defined by 35 hours per week.

The Importance of Communication in a Hair Salon

Cosmetologist practicing good communication skills with client in chair

Working in a salon means being in constant communication with clients. So, you’ll need to know how to ensure your clients are satisfied each time they leave your salon chair. While you want to understand your client’s wants and needs, you also want to communicate effectively with your customers.

Misunderstandings in communication could lead to dissatisfaction, which could result in bad reviews for your business. Effective communication is also important in any industry, and while you have the privilege of being creative in your line of work, you should still make sure each client is satisfied. Keeping up with your skills and being knowledgeable about styling trends are necessities for maintaining a client base. Of course, you’ll also need to know how to convey these skills to customers in a way they can understand.

Some helpful communication tips to use in your salon to make sure your client is happy each time they visit include active listening, being professional, being patient, asking the right questions, encouraging openness, and continued interaction.

Active Listening

It’s important to hear what your client is saying, and to actually listen to them. Active listening means reiterating what the client is saying to make sure you have clarification about the cut, style, or treatment the customer wants. If the client doesn’t bring a picture of the hairstyle they want, you can show them a picture from your styling books to offer a visual aid. This will make it easier for your client to point out the aspect of the style they want and be more detailed in their descriptions.

After you’ve intently listened to your customer, you should explain how to care for the style and color in between salon visits. You can also recommend certain hair products like shampoos and conditioners that will nourish the hair and maintain color. Try not to come across as “selling” the products you have available in the salon, simply let them know that the items are for sale. If you’re working with a regular client, they may feel more comfortable with learning about your inventory and may even ask you which products they can purchase.

Be Professional

Maintaining a professional demeanor throughout the entire client experience is one of the best forms of customer service. Your client is coming to you as their expert and is trusting you to give them a style they love while improving the health of their hair. To make sure you can answer client questions and provide the best service, you should sign up for continuing education courses. Due to changes in trends and technological updates, there are always new styling tools and techniques. As a professional, you should always be up to date on the styles.

When asked about procedure to implement a certain style or needs to know how to keep their hair healthy, you should know how to answer these questions in detail. If you seem uncertain, they will lose faith in your styling abilities.

Off-Limits Conversations in a Hair Salon

Professionalism also means making sure you’re not having inappropriate conversations with your client, other clients or fellow stylists. The hair salon is often known as a hub for gossip and some clients may even be looking for this when they visit the salon. However, you should make sure your environment is stress-free and non-toxic. Some clients may see their salon visits as a time to relax or as a form of self-care. It’s essential that clients feel comfortable confiding in you and shouldn’t get the impression that they will be talked about once they leave the salon.

Be Patient with Communication

When it comes to client communication, you’ll have to exhibit a considerable amount of patience. Sometimes clients can be difficult if they are frustrated about the current state of their hair. Other customers will expect you to read their minds and won’t give you much information. You may encounter clients who don’t want to talk much or answer questions when you ask them about what they want. There are also times when you’ll have to tell clients that the style, they want may not be best. While one of the first rules you learn in customer service is that the customer is always right. You are the professional in the situation, and if you give a customer the style they want and their hair sustains more damage, they will likely blame you.

Of course, you’ll have to be gentle and friendly when you tell clients that they may need to receive more conditioning treatments before getting color or that a haircut might by the best way to ensure their hair grows back healthily. You should explain the reasons for your professional opinion and show a few pictures to give clients an idea of the styles that would work best for them.

Ask the Right Questions

Another way you can ensure you’re keeping the lines of communication open with your clients is to ask the right questions. If you’re styling a client who has visited your salon before, you should ask questions about the style the customer wants based on their personality. Chances are you’ve also learned a little about the client’s lifestyle, so make sure that the style the client wants will fit their busy lifestyle. For instance, if your customer works the night shift at a clinic or hospital, a style that keeps the hair in place for several days at a time and doesn’t require much maintenance may be best. However, if your client is a model or creative professional, you may want to go with a style that the client can change or update easily in between salon visits.

Ask your client how often they wash or straighten their hair. Make sure you know whether the client wants to maintain their natural hair texture. Inquire about the colors the client wants in their hair and advise them about the specialty shampoos that are necessary to keep the color intact. Some colors may not be suitable for professional environments, so you can talk to your client about variations on the same color that will help them achieve their style goals. For instance, if the customer wants bright red hair but works in a corporate setting, you may want to suggest a burgundy or a natural red color that will match the client’s skin tone. This allows the customer to update their look while still adhering to their office dress code.

Encourage Openness

One of the best things you can do as a stylist is to make your clients feel at ease telling you their hair history. People are often embarrassed when they’ve spent years coloring their hair themselves and are now dealing with damaged strands. Other clients may be apprehensive about coming to the salon after not getting a haircut or having their ends trimmed. It’s up to you to ensure that your clients feel at ease talking to you about the condition of their hair and what they want to achieve with their style. If a customer feels that you’re looking down on them or criticizing them for the health of their hair, they will be less likely to come to you for future appointments or to refer you to other clients.

Reassure your clients that even though it may take some time, you can work with them to restore the health of their hair. In addition to providing top-notch services, you should also give your customers tips for how to wash and style their hair before visiting the salon again. Clients may also be looking to you to find out which habits they should avoid, to achieve healthy hair. Giving your clients tips about eating healthy foods for great hair or protecting the hair during workouts are invaluable and show your clients you care.

Continued Interaction

These days, communication comes in various forms. So, even after your client leaves, you should maintain interaction to promote brand recognition and showcase your skills. Setting up a social media page and posting videos of helpful hair care tips can solidify your professional reputation. Using social media as a marketing tool is important for many professionals these days. In your videos and on social media, you can also offer discounts and promotions that will motivate established clients to continue to use your services. Of course, these discounts can also appeal to first-time customers who are looking for a new stylist in their area or who have heard about your services.

When you interact with new, existing, and potential clients, you’re establishing yourself as one of the best in the business. You can also provide discounts for the clients who are willing to style their hair on video. Sometimes, these videos can help for marketing. Of course, you can also showcase your styling abilities on your own hair.  It makes you trustworthy in the eyes of clients. After all, if you’re not afraid to style, cut or color your own hair, you’re sending the message that clients have nothing to worry about when they sit in your chair.

Want to Learn More?

Did learning about the importance of communication in a hair salon interest you? Need to get your undergraduate certificate in cosmetology? At Minnesota School of Cosmetology, we are dedicated to helping our Cosmetology program students develop a solid foundation and a flair for style through hands-on training in basic and advanced industry techniques. You will learn how to cut, color and style hair, give manicures and pedicures, provide spa treatments and perform various skin care techniques from industry-experienced instructors in a professional salon setting. We keep our class sizes small to make sure you get the individualized instruction you need and attention you deserve. You will graduate with everything you need to be a versatile artist in an exciting industry, including a cosmetology diploma from a respected college.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a hairstylist and starting a rewarding career in the beauty industry.