How do you show up in your practice, in your personal life and in public?

Why does that matter? This article will address the key element of showing up well and how it helps you promote a massage therapy business

The term showing up well can seem vague, so let me explain: This phrase indicates one’s presence and demeanor.

Presence is defined as the state of existing, occurring or being present in a place or thing. Demeanor is defined as outward behavior displayed. Proper demeanor results from proper intention.

There are many points to consider regarding showing up well in a massage practice.

Dress Well

First, how one chooses to dress to their practice space matters. An adage a mentor once shared is to dress as if I am always interviewing for a position, akin to the motto, dress for success.

Each new client can be seen as an interview of sorts, in that you want them to rebook with you (rehire you) upon completion of the session. Impressing clients with your dress standard will elevate their opinion of you as a therapist.

Also, on the topic of dress, you will send a message to the general public on what to expect from a massage therapist with your presentation.

I had this experience, speaking to this point: My private practice is located within a professional building with several other businesses operating within this building. One day, standing outside my studio door awaiting my client to begin the session, an insurance salesmen commented on what I was wearing.

“Are you working on the president or something?” he asked, then added, “You look sharp.”

I simply replied, “This is how I dress for everyone.”

 I could tell he wasn’t expecting a “hippie” massage therapist to wear slacks, dress shoes and polo shirt into session. This interaction elevated and changed his image of how mainstream media typically presents us as non-mainstream individuals.

Speak Well

Second, how one chooses to speak impacts how the general public perceives us in practice. Using proper anatomical language in describing the body displays knowledge and competency to clients. Certainly, there can be a balance struck with not speaking beyond a client’s understanding, yet still using proper terminology to express one’s thoughts.

For example, when speaking with a client about working gluteal muscles I have used language such as, “There are over 25 muscles attaching to your hip bones, placing tension in multiple directions within your hips. May we work the gluteal region to address some of these muscles?”

Also consider how you choose to speak in everyday life. Do you speak in a respectful manner? Do you display attitudes of love and compassion in the words you choose? Do you speak solutions and positive intentions? Do you convey a spirit of goodwill and appropriate temperament when you speak?

Uplifting language on your part will do wonders to attract clientele towards your practice as well as radiate positivity to the world.

Listen Well

Third, how well one chooses to listen matters tremendously to one’s success. The ability to set aside ego as well as “What I think I know” allows a therapist to listen truly to what clients are saying and feeling. Clients will feel and appreciate your sincerity in understanding their condition of health.

You may recognize this scenario: Being frustrated on the phone with customer service employees who are not listening to you, merely giving you the scripted answer and disregarding your situation. (Such an occurrence left me frustrated and wishing to part ways with the company.) Ensure your clients are never in this scenario with you.

Your ability to listen to their words and body while ascertaining their condition will do wonders toward showing up well.

Learn Well

Fourth, how one chooses to improve their skill set is key in one’s ability to show up well for clients. As a continuing education provider, I witness often the attitudes people have toward continuing education.

Some people see this as drudgery, others as a nuisance, still others as a means of taking money from their pockets. These people may often see themselves with attitudes of “already great enough for my clients” or “I already fix people so no need to learn any more.”

I appreciate individuals with a positive impression of continuing education. Some people see more education as more tools in one’s tool belt to aid clients, others as a means towards self-empowerment and self-improvement, still others as a professional responsibility to keep abreast of updated research and development in our field.

These people may often see themselves with attitudes of always seeking to explore new options and I learn more ways to help clients facilitate their own healing.

Improving one’s skill set as a therapist involves more than taking a few classes to learn new modalities. There are approaches to the body that may alter the effectiveness of any modality.

For example, the modality of myofascial release is a style I have witnessed presented in no less than nine different ways. Each of the nine approaches created similar, but not equal, results of freed myofascial adhesions, restored range of motion, improved muscle function and many other claims by instructors. Consider learning varying approaches to your already established modalities.

To improve one’s skill set, a profound understanding of human anatomy, physiology, pathology and kinesiology can be paramount. The more we discover about fundamental principles of these subjects, the greater our understanding of massage application becomes. We may begin showing up well with much-improved technical, manual proficiency with our deeper comprehension.

Check the Ego

A note to my male brethren: how we show up matters more with us. I have heard many male therapists express frustration with their lack of work and clientele. Certainly, there are many factors affecting why males may often not have as many clients as their female coworkers.

External societal attitudes of touch, manhood and safety play major roles. How a male expresses himself can assuage these societal attitudes.

Another factor in showing up well is how one displays ego in their attitude and speech. Phrases used by many veteran therapists showcasing ego include: “I fixed this client,” “My clients know I fix them,” “My way is better than the teacher’s way” and “I’ll show you the best way to do this technique.” These are examples of phrases many men use to highlight how much they know.

Yes, dude, you probably know a lot and can show me a thing or two. But was your advice invited? Are you sharing from a sincere space of sharing or showing off in a bragging manner? Are you trying to outdo your colleagues? All these questions speak to the intention behind how you show up to your peers and clients.

Ego can turn people off. Many veteran therapists make the mistake of thinking that their vast experience automatically equates to a better session than one provided by a newly graduated therapist. However, our field is more nuanced than linear.

Why is it some clients prefer the less-experienced touch versus more experienced touch? Perhaps the less-experienced therapist is better able to listen to the body’s tissue talk (sensations felt in client’s body through the therapist’s sense of touch).

Perhaps the less-experienced therapist listened better to the client and addressed areas of concern (rather than working areas only the therapist deemed important). Perhaps the less-experienced therapist may have better customer service, interpersonal skills and table-side manner.

Show Up Well

Some people are happy with the status quo. Other people choose to excel. Status quo may feel comfortable. Comfortable may mean a steady paycheck, allowing one to live contently. Losing this comfort may result in feeling uncomfortable when considering one’s ability to survive or enjoy an established standard of living.

Excelling makes people work harder than they normally would for what they seek to achieve. Excelling may require short-term sacrifice for long-term gain. Someone excelling in life is living outside their comfort zone, which at first may feel uncomfortable yet in the long run yields satisfaction and wealth never thought possible.

Showing up well may mean joyful contentment for some people and pushing one’s self beyond a comfort zone for others.

Joyful contentment may appear as ensuring their present massage practice space is always well-kept, hygienic and predictably appealing. Pushing one’s self beyond a comfort zone may appear as utilizing additional tools and modalities into a practice, providing clients choices with each session.

A therapist has to have the integrity to choose to show up well in massage practice. Integrity cannot be learned from a book. Integrity needs to be modeled by fellow professionals in the field and teachers in the classroom.

Integrity has to be a conscious choice.

Ultimately, when massage therapists make choices from a space of integrity, they choose to love themselves enough to be the best version of their self.

Choosing to dress well, speak professionally, listen actively and intently to clients, improving one’s skill set and checking one’s ego will guide therapists towards the best means of showing up well with their clients and thereby promoting their massage therapy business.

About the Author:

Jimmy Gialelis, LMT, BCTMB, is owner of Advanced Massage Arts & Education (advancedmassagece.com) in Tempe, Arizona. He is a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved provider of continuing education, and teaches “Professional Ethics for LMTs” and many other CE classes. He is a regular contributor to MASSAGE Magazine, and his articles include “To Succeed in Today’s Massage Market, You Can’t Make These 3 Mistakes” and “These 5 Keys Will Unlock the Door to Massage Session Re-Bookings.”

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