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Massage Therapy – How Much Should You Talk To Your Clients?

how much should you talk to your clients

Should you talk to your clients during a massage therapy session? Should you let your clients talk while they are receiving their massage?

I have often heard that therapists should discourage talking by their clients and that they should not talk much either.

But…based on my experience of practicing Thai Massage for over 20 years, I am convinced that this advice is flawed – and here is why:

We don’t all process information in the same way

  1. Some people have a more developed auditory sense and they feel most comfortable processing information through hearing and talking.
  2. Some people are more visually oriented. They will notice people’s hair color, eye color, dress, and they like to “see it before they believe it”
  3. Some people are kinesthetic. They like to feel things.

These characteristics are always mixed, i.e. nobody is 100% auditory for example. But one of the three is generally predominant. Let me tell you a story to illustrate the point.

Once I had a girlfriend, and when we had any point of contention I tried to explain my side of the story to her, and she used to get upset while I could not understand why. I just couldn’t get her to carry on a meaningful discussion with me to solve our issues.

How better communication saved my relationship

brainy lightbulb

When I learned about the different ways people process information, a light bulb went on in my head. I am mostly auditory and therefore like to talk, teach, write and explain things. That makes sense to me.

But it didn’t make sense to her at all since she was mostly kinesthetic. She just wanted to be held and hugged, and she couldn’t care less about all my logic and arguments.

A couple hugging

She needed to feel that everything was alright, whereas I wanted to explain and discuss it. It was the high road to miscommunication and we generally both ended up frustrated.

When I told her what I had learned, we worked out a solution. She acknowledged my need to talk about issues and was more willing to listen. I reduced my explanations and hugged and held her more.

As a result, we were both happier and able to sort out our differences much more effectively.

Communication methods in massage therapy

What does all this have to do with professional massage therapy? A lot, as you will see.

Imagine a highly auditory client coming to you for a session. Naturally, he or she is interested in what you do, how it works, and why you do something.

trust dial

If you turn on your silent mode, your client will not feel very comfortable with you, will not trust you as much, and a good client/therapist relationship is less likely to develop.

This would obviously not be so good for your repeat business.

Clients who are more visually oriented like to be shown or demonstrated something, whereas kinesthetic clients prefer to just lie down and experience the session.

If you try to talk a lot to kinesthetic clients, you will annoy them and they won’t feel a good connection with you.

How to find out what kind of person you are dealing with

Often you can pick up clues by the way how people talk and act and what words they use (“I see“, “I hear you“, “I get the feeling…”, etc.) But the easiest way  is to ask your client a question:

What's your answer
  • “Would you like me to explain what I am doing or would you rather just experience it?”
  • “Are you interested in the background of this therapy or shall we just get on with it?”
  • “Do you want me to show you a little how this works or would you prefer to just get started?”

You try to get a response that gives you the clues you need. If you arbitrarily decide that talking in a massage therapy session is not appropriate, you will override some client’s need to talk and your relationship will be somewhat similar to the one I initially had with my girlfriend, although on a more subtle level.

===> Don’t decide what is right for your clients. Let them make that decision.

Here is another issue:

You don’t know your client’s most important reason for getting massage

I have had many Thai Massage clients who clearly needed to talk about something that they could not express easily elsewhere. People tend to trust their therapists, doctors, and hairdressers with their stories.

I am a good listener

If you now say that it is none of your business to be a counselor or psychologist, you are right.

But there is nothing wrong with being a good listener and showing empathy and a caring attitude.

So what if a client talks through most of the session! It is their money, and if it makes them happy, who are we to tell them that they are wrong? We earn the same money if they talk or not.

Communication case history

traumatized woman

Let me tell you another story. Once I had a Thai Massage client who had been gang-raped and was understandably highly traumatized.

She had withdrawn from people and had a hard time trusting anyone. She had not had massage for a long time either.

When I began working with her, she poured out all her grief and talked throughout the entire session.

In the end, she was very happy that I listened supportively and she grew to trust me. I worked on her many times, and she kept talking throughout most of the sessions.

I don’t know how much she felt of the Thai Massage, but what I do know is that she loved the sessions. Her need to talk was more important to her than to experience the massage. She was one of my most loyal clients.

To talk or not to talk is an important skill of good therapists

My suggestion is to keep an open mind to your client’s needs. Don’t decide what is right for them and do not become attached to doing things your way.

Some of your massage clients will talk a lot, and some will not utter a word. There is no right or wrong here.

As massage therapists we are better off going with the flow and our client’s natural propensity for processing information than establishing a rule that talking during massage sessions is inappropriate.

I am not suggesting that massage therapists should talk more during sessions, but I am proposing that a rule of talking as little as possible is not always the best choice, and can even be counterproductive.

Learning to pick up verbal and physical clues from clients, asking pertinent questions that give clients a choice, using our intuition instead of rules, and allowing them to choose the reason why they come to us for their massage sessions can go a long way towards establishing better rapport, trust and productive communication with our clients.

To learn or improve your Thai Massage skills with refined elements like good body mechanics, good communication skills, a developed intuition, and a great touch, check out our convenient online training:

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image of Shama Kern

The author, Shama Kern, is the founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy. He is the author of 20 Thai Massage online training courses and has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for 20 years.

The 12 Main Reasons Why People Want To Get A Massage

12 reasons why people get massage

Why do people get a massage? At first glance, the answer seems pretty simple. They want to relax and feel better. However when we look at the question a little closer, there are actually quite a few very different reasons why people go to a massage therapist.

And for us as providers it is important to understand all those reasons, because they may require different interactions with our clients.

image of relaxed woman

1. Relaxation

This first reason comes to mind for most of us. People want to relax, feel good and pamper themselves, even if there is nothing wrong with them.

That’s how most spas make their money. They cater to people who love some luxury and indulgence in a beautiful and relaxing environment.

Continue reading…The 12 Main Reasons Why People Want To Get A Massage

What Do Our Massage Clients Really Want?

The massage hammer story

image of massage hammer

Recently I published a video in my “ Tips And Tricks” Thai Massage education series. In this episode I showed the use of a mechanical massage tool, a ‘massage hammer’.

When I posted the video on youtube, someone left a comment saying that the use of this tool felt like “cheating” to him, since the client paid for the use of his hands. He said that he would use this tool on a client, but he could not charge him for this time.

Here is what I do in my Thai Massage practice. I have a couple of quite large, heavy and stiff male clients who need intense work on the back, glutes and hamstrings.

When I initially introduced this tool, they both liked it. It puts out heat via an infrared lamp which works very well to loosen up tight muscles, and the vibrations are quite effective.

Continue reading…What Do Our Massage Clients Really Want?

How To Deal With Different Types Of Massage Clients

Thai Massage knee technique
Thai Massage Knee Technique

When you work with massage clients over long periods of time, you will notice certain patterns evolving. Some people come pretty close to being the ideal massage clients, but there are others where you keep glancing at the clock and just wait for the session to be over.

During my Thai Massage career most of my sessions were positive and often wonderfully uplifting experiences. However the skills of a massage therapist should include how to deal with situations that are not ideal.

I am offering some suggestions in this article about challenging sessions and what to do about them. They are a minority, but sooner or later every therapist will encounter most or all of them.

Here is a listing of the various types of clients that I have encountered in my Thai Massage practice over the years, and how to deal with them.

Continue reading…How To Deal With Different Types Of Massage Clients