Ep 12 – Improving Your Client Communication Skills with Dr. Kerry Mitchell

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Successful client communication involves active listening and often overcommunication in an effort to attain clear direction. This is certainly challenging during a pandemic, and listeners can learn by foregoing judgment and assumptions and bringing extra awareness to conversations. University of Denver assistant teaching professor Dr. Kerry Mitchell helps listeners understand verbal triggers and provides tips for being in the moment, even when you don’t agree with someone. Her advice: don’t judge, and bring kindness and empathy to every situation.

Author Images: 
Dr. Kerry Mitchell
Author Bio: 

Dr. Kerry Mitchell is an assistant teaching professor in management at the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. She is passionate about empowering individuals and organizations to reach their fullest potential. She has spent more than 25 years partnering with nonprofits, government, and Fortune 500 organizations to make engaging workplaces. Her consulting clients include Charles Schwab, AARP, and the City and County of Denver, with a focus on employee engagement. She has been a keynote speaker on generational communication for organizations such as the Association of Women’s Health and Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. In addition to running her own business, Dr. Mitchell has taught communication and leadership for more than 16 years in classroom, online, and hybrid courses. As a faculty member at the University of Denver, she teaches a course that combines her love of management and communication. As a scholar-practitioner, she researches employee empowerment, generational differences, and women’s leadership.


This episode sponsored by Anatomy Trains and Yomassage.

Full Transcript: 

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00:48 Darren Buford: Welcome to the ABMP podcast. My name is Darren Buford. I'm the editor-in-chief of Massage and Bodywork magazine, and Senior Director of Communications for ABMP. I'm joined by my co-host, Kristin Coverly, licensed massage therapist and Director of Professional Education for ABMP. Our goal is to connect with luminaries and experts in around the massage, bodywork and wellness profession in order to talk about the topics, trends and techniques that affect our listeners' practices. Our guest today is Dr. Kerry Mitchell. Dr. Mitchell is an assistant teaching professor in management at the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. She's passionate about empowering individuals and organizations to reach their fullest potential.

01:30 DB: She has spent more than 25 years partnering with non-profits, government, and Fortune 500 organizations to make engaging work places. Her consulting clients include Charles Schwab, AARP, and the City and County of Denver, with a focus on employee engagement. She has been a keynote speaker on generational communication for organizations such as the Association of Women's Health in Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. In addition to running her own business, Dr. Mitchell has taught communication and leadership for more than 16 years in classroom, online, and hybrid courses. As a faculty member at the University of Denver, she teaches a course that combines her love of management and communication. As a scholar practitioner, she researches employee empowerment, generational differences, and women's leadership. Hello, Kerry.

02:19 Dr. Kerry Mitchell: Hello.

02:20 DB: Thank you so much for joining us today.

02:22 DM: And thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.

02:25 DB: I wanted to start, if you don't mind, but can you just tell our listeners a little bit about your own path and special interest in communication skills?

02:33 DM: Sure, yeah. So, I started off [chuckle] many years ago wanting to do more broadcasting actually. So I started my career and my college career wanting to be in broadcasting and got really disillusioned by some of those things, so went into corporate as a trainer and realized that so much of what happens in any area comes down to what we're communicating, how we're communicating. So that was really my focus. So I went back to school and got some degrees more on the communication side, and I've done a lot of work then in terms of mediation for a while in conflict, and then how to get communication in organizations. And again, it doesn't matter what type of organization, profit, non-profit, but what is the message we really wanna send and how people are interpreting that, so that's really more of my fascination. And so I've turned that into a lot of different things, and just how do we misjudge or miscommunicate on a day-to-day basis, just 'cause we're going too fast, we're using the wrong channels, we're talking with people completely different than us, and just trying to bring that together so that we can really, I think, have more effective relationships, no matter who it's with, personal or business.

03:42 DB: Excellent. How would you describe successful communication?

03:46 DM: That's such an interesting question. So, in the textbook version of communication, we always say there's a sender and there's a receiver and there's a message, and often we forget about some of the feedback piece of what is that purpose of communication. So for me, to say what is successful, I would think that it's all parties, so it's not always just one sender or receiver, but anyone who's involved to come back with a similar understanding and to feel satisfied from the communication interaction. So as people, we're never gonna have the exact perception of what occurred, but if we can at least have something similar in meaning, and we're both feeling like we were heard or understood when we're walking away, or leaving your computer if it's written, with a satisfied feeling, for me that would be a success.

04:33 DB: And what is each participant's role in communication?

04:39 DM: Yeah, so that's the hard thing. I think a lot of people think communication is just about saying what you want, or sometimes listening. But it's really that ongoing process of both listening to others and really trying to understand, as well as giving your message as clearly and effectively as you can. So it's that interaction of listening, perceiving, making meaning out of it, and of course, trying to make sure you're clear as well. So it's that whole process, explaining, listening, perceiving, making meaning, that whole piece. And we're responsible for all of that. So, you probably heard that communication is a two-way street, type of thing, which is true, that we're both responsible. If I'm not listening and I'm not paying attention, 'cause maybe I'm on my phone or I'm texting or I'm doing something else, then that's my responsibility as well, 'cause I'm not giving it my full attention and effort.

05:30 Kristin Coverly: And Kerry, where would you say, even if both parties, multiple parties are coming with the best intentions to a communication situation, where does it sometimes fall off the rails? What can happen for it to turn into an unsuccessful or challenging communication experience?

05:47 DM: There's so much. And again, in the textbook version, we say that there's things like noise or we're encoding it wrong, but what that really means is that sometimes we aren't listening, we're not giving it our full effort, so of course, mistakes are gonna happen. And then the number one thing that we do, and it's human, so I don't want people to think like, "Oh, this is a negative thing," but we are always making assumptions and judgements. So there's so many times that we forget who we are, that we're all unique, and just because maybe I do something one way, it doesn't mean that everyone does, or because I have a particular background, that other people have the same meanings or the same ideas of what that means.

06:25 DM: So, most often, I think the miscommunications just comes from that making judgments or assumptions on what other people think we need. "Well, I said X. Didn't you understand that?" That X might have a completely different meaning to someone else, or they might interpret what I'm saying about it completely different than I mean to. So it's that piece of not communicating enough, which I think, again, people are sometimes scared to ask or to say, "This is what I understood. Is that what you meant?" Or "Can you explain that further?" We just assume, "They said this. I'm supposed to get it," and we might have different meanings.

07:01 DB: Alright, let's get to the nitty-gritty. How do we as healthcare providers need to alter the way we communicate with clients for it to be effective during this time of COVID-19?

07:13 DM: Such a good question. And I don't know if it's so much altering as maybe having an extra awareness of everything that's going on. So part of that, I think, is always knowing with your clients what your end goal is, and realizing that it's a different relationship. So again, hopefully, you're already doing that, but just putting more emphasis on what is the end goal. So obviously right now, so much political pieces are going out, so much divisiveness, and you might say something that someone takes the wrong way, and so that piece just right now that I think everyone is dealing with is, when do I step in and say, "Oh, that's wrong," or "This isn't correct," or you have misunderstanding versus just listening.

07:56 DM: And so again, I think you always do that, but I think even now, it's just having that end goal in mind. Especially if it's coming up as you're doing your work. And if your goal is to actually be helping heal people, in doing that, the end goal at some time you might feel like, "Oh, I'm triggered, where I wanna say, 'Oh, but have you considered this?'" But at that time, if your point is to get through the work that you're doing and get someone to stay in that relaxed, healthy state, then it might be letting go a little bit more of your own ideas and triggers and emotions, and concentrating again on the purpose of being there is to help this client or this person through what they need. It may not be your purpose to say what you think, even though if you're talking with friends or family, you might have a different take on that relationship.

08:44 KC: As a follow up to that, I know some of my massage friends, my colleagues, have started seeing clients again on a limited basis, and one of them had the experience where they have a mask policy, PPE policies are new, they both were wearing a mask, my friend the therapist, and the new client coming back, but the client was so excited to see my friend again and to have the work again and have that therapeutic relationship, that she ran in for the hug, which... And my client froze, because my client is not comfortable with the hug in this moment, and that's not something she's open to. So also, I think we have to think about our non-verbal communication, and during this time with keeping a distance, but how do we do that without it coming across as personal to them? Not that you don't want them to hug you as a unique individual, but in general, "That's not something I'm comfortable with." How can we make that distinction so that we end up with a communication everyone feels good about, but you're holding your boundary?

09:47 DM: Yeah, and so part of that, I think is just being clear with what you're doing and why. And so, the hug is a little bit harder, 'cause I think that's initial reaction where even the person going in for the hug may not actually feel comfortable with it, but it's just an instinct. That's what we as humans are often used to doing. So when you can, you wanna try to preempt that, if that makes sense. So, if you are sending out emails about the new protocol, or you have a sign on the door that says you can only come in with a mask. It also might be, and a quick reminder that there are no hugs, that there's no X. Like just putting that up front, and then of course, as someone walks in, "Oh great, you're wearing your mask. I have to remind you, no hugs."

10:24 DM: Just going through it like you would with everyone, so that you're seeming like these are the normal things that we need to do. And of course, being prepared. I think another thing, you know, right now that everyone is so reactive. And like you were saying, if someone is scared, their reaction's gonna be like, "Whoa, get away from me." And you would just wanna again make that clear when you can. Expect someone might come in and be prepared. So as much as you can prepare yourself, I think for those instances, and reminding people hugs aren't allowed.

10:50 DM: And you can say you're not comfortable with it, but I think it's even okay to say, "As we're trying to protect everyone, there are certain protocols that we're all following, so that means no hugs. It does mean masks. It does mean X." And just giving that list up front, so that people don't feel like it's personal, or they don't feel like they're doing something wrong, 'cause that's the other reaction you might get from someone, going, "Oh my gosh, I tried to hug you, now I feel guilty." And you don't want them to feel bad. So again, say, "You know, we're all learning. This is a new situation for everyone, so I just need to remind you upfront." The more you can do that, I think, the better.

11:22 DB: I've had a couple instances where I was able to intercept the hug with a little elbow bump there, [chuckle] but it was tricky, and I did need to be like, "I'm not super comfortable myself, but thank you so much." You actually mentioned something that I think is a good transition to the next question. What are some of the key shifts people need to make to communicate effectively using electronic versus in-person communication?

11:51 DM: Yeah, so electronic is always difficult, and again, it somewhat depends on what you're using. So texting is gonna be a little different than email than what's gonna be a little bit different than social, so you have to be specific to your channel and who your audience is. So what I mean by that is someone who... Again, depending on your own policies. I've worked with massage therapists who their mode is texting, 'cause they have younger clients, versus some who are putting announcements or all their information right now up on their Facebook page if that's what they have. And that tends to be slightly older audience. So again, just thinking about who your audience is, or what it is that they wanna understand, but the basics, no matter of which channel you're using, is you wanna remember electronics don't have the vocal cues, they don't have the smiles, which again, you don't always have with the mask these days either, but any of those things that we're used to giving us information.

12:43 DM: So the main thing I always tell people, no matter which way you're doing it with electronics is just to read it, re-read it, try to think how could it be perceived. Again, it's that piece where we're always in our own head. So, if you've just gone out and you are, let's say, seeing new clients, and this is your third or fourth client you've seen and you're writing them a message, they may not have stepped out of their house yet. So, it's that thing where we have to think about, "Is this somebody who has been out and has been wearing masks and doing some other things, or is this someone who doesn't even know the protocol and hasn't stepped out?" And just making sure, no matter where you're coming from, that your message would be clear in all of those different scenarios. Which is a little harder 'cause we're not used to doing that, but again, in that... In an electronic form, it just takes all of those pieces out of that.

13:28 DM: So again, I think really just going through with how could it be perceived, what's important, is my message clear? And all the general rules, I think most people know now, but just to reiterate. Things like don't use caps. That seems like you're yelling at someone. Don't be too short, even if you're using texting. Sometimes saying, "K." I get that a lot. Well, what does that mean? You're okay with the time, you're okay with the protocols, you're okay with what? So, again, just really trying to be clear with, "I heard X. I understand." So maybe doing a little bit more over-communicating in a sense, instead of just writing quick words, but actually trying to make sure that the message is understood, that it's effective, and then it's clear.

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15:00 DB: We have the benefit internally in our offices sometimes to have a backup buddy, and what I mean by that is we have somebody read our communications, especially if we think there's something that may be sensitive. Just, "Hey, Kristin, do you mind really quickly taking a look at this? I feel like, I'm not gonna say anything. Just take a look. Does anything jump off the page? I was worried about that sentence. Oh my gosh, thank you so much. That helps me." Or even if you don't have a backup buddy, I think you mentioned it earlier, Kerry, maybe get up and walk away from the computer or the phone.

15:31 DM: Yes.

15:31 DB: Go do something else, re-read it, and see if you feel any of the triggers that you may have brought to it, because there's a good chance the participant on the other side may be triggered by something you did.

15:45 DM: Yeah, and the hardest thing, I think too, with electronic communication is that sometimes people do try to show emotion or humor, and it just does not come off the same way. So unless someone knows you really, really well, I always try to say, "Stay away from that and just be clear and dry." And I know some people are like, "That's boring. Not showing my personality. It's not showing our connection." But really, it's safer than being misunderstood. And so, absolutely, anytime you can have a backup buddy, someone to read it, even if there's someone close to you, just saying, "Does this sound okay?" Trying to ask that is good. And I know sometimes people tell me, "But why? It's just a quick communication. Do I really need to do that?"

16:22 DM: Yeah. 'Cause that miscommunication, if they understand something differently than you meant, it can create a rift or something that could obviously impact the relationship, but also your livelihood, or how you're getting money, or your reputation. So I always say, even if it's just like a quick yes, make sure you're actually saying, "You know what you're saying yes to. Clarify. Ask somebody else if it makes sense." And like you're saying, but you can walk away. Absolutely, walk away, make sure you come back and read it. Again, try and keep those humor things like that out of there. It's really important.

16:52 DM: So sometimes people do get carried away and put in emoticons, and I wouldn't say never using emoticons, but certainly be careful with that to make sure if you are using them that the meaning's clear. If you use too many, then people start thinking you're just using emoticons, and it's not the same thing as, "Okay, I'm putting a smile here, so you know that I'm making this happy." So that's another thing to be aware of, if you do use emoticons, just make sure you use them sparingly.

17:16 DB: Considering that so many people, our clients, are having challenging experiences during COVID, what is your advice for how to respond to someone if they seem triggered when communicating with you, when they may be bringing frustration about something else into the communication?

17:35 DM: Oh my goodness, right now, that is just happening a lot, I'm sure not just to all of you, but in every industry. And so the first thing I would say is try to listen. Let people talk. So, in conflict management, the first thing we always say is that people need to vent to get emotion out. That's just part of... Once we get that out, then we can sit back and be calm, where it's hard to have any kinda discussion if you still have that emotion in. So if someone seems triggered, and they go on a rant, I usually just say let that happen, let them get it out, and then come back and say, "Maybe there was a miscommunication," or "It seems like maybe my meaning wasn't clear." And then you start that discussion, but let that first piece happen, even though it's somewhat hard.

18:16 DM: And then I think it's okay to ask questions, and obviously listen to understand that kinda seem... Ask some questions with, "You seem angry with this" or "I'm getting the feeling that you thought I meant X. Tell me what you're feeling." Like, ask more about that, 'cause a lot of times then that is when someone gets triggered, and they're like, "Oh, well, I guess if I really think about it, you didn't actually say this, but I've been out like five times today and everyone else did that." And then they start realizing themselves that they've done it, or then maybe they can say, "Yeah, here's what triggered it," and then that gives you the chance to say, "Oh okay, I see what you're thinking. Here's what I intended," or "Here's what I meant," always going back to that intention piece.

18:56 DM: And acknowledging that people are gonna be at different pieces right now. And the best we can do is to try to, of course, monitor our language and think about what we're saying, but again, because we're all different, we're all gonna have completely different reactions to things that people say. So, that's the main thing I would say. Let people go through, think about it, then go back and ask questions. The one thing that I've seen... Again, not in this industry specifically. But a lot of people then start feeling like maybe they were judged, or maybe they're being taken the wrong way, and so we tend to overreact and go quicker with like, "That's not what I meant!" or "You're thinking this wrong." And really the point is, again, to keep that relationship. This is your client. So the best we can do is to try to relax them by saying we understand, we understand where they're coming from, we might understand how they got that perception, here's what we're really thinking, but try not to overreact, try not to judge, try not to make assumptions. Any of those things, I think are gonna come into that piece.

19:56 DM: And so again, for me, you're thinking about in one day, you might be dealing with someone who's in their 80s and very, very scared of getting a disease versus someone who's 20 who might say, "I've already had it. I'm not really worried about it." And you have to be prepared for either perspective, and so that's where I think you might say something that's triggering that you don't mean to. So again, just thinking about their perspective and trying to understand it, and then trying to explain yours, but let them get that first piece out.

20:23 DB: And then how do we as therapists not bring emotions from our own personal life: Frustrations, anxiety and fear, into our communication with clients? And this is for massage therapists, this is for everybody, because I think we all can do this.

20:38 DM: Right. If you feel tense or stressed, that might be coming out, so for you all, I do think it's definitely more important, and part of that, I think, is just knowing your own triggers or what things might do that, and then having a process. Everyone is different. But having a process that calms you down. So some people, it might be even if you're doing work, just taking a deep breath, if you can, like a sort of a quick little mini-meditation. Others, I think, have a visualization where you're focusing more on seeing the clients healthy at the end, or focusing on that. But again, the main thing is knowing your triggers and what works for you to calm you down. For me, it's usually things like taking a deep breath, just refocusing and just trying to do that self-talk of, "This isn't directed towards you. And everyone has a different experience. It's not about you. It's not personal."

21:28 DM: It's so hard I think with these big divisive issues that we get focused on "What is the issue?" or "You're saying this, so it must mean X." And we tend to bring our own emotions out 'cause we may not have experienced that or we might think, "Well, what do you mean? Don't you care? Don't you wanna help other people?" Or on the reverse side of, "But you need to do this, and I understand why maybe you think other people don't need it." We go through those thoughts, and just coming back to that piece of, "That isn't what I'm here about right now, even if I feel that way." Being aware of those emotions and saying, "Here's my goal right now." And so however you can do to sort of shelve it, which I think is really hard, but again, remembering that your focus is to be here and to heal, it's not to take things on personal or have this discussion right now. And that's really hard, I think, especially right now, when in some ways, we're being told to try to give people the right information and to overcome certain things. But we have to remember that's not your goal right now, especially if you're working on them. Just give it time, know your triggers, do the deep breath, come back to it later. You don't have to agree with anyone, but again, just try not to let that come out and impact you.

22:38 KC: I love that, and I also love when you said a lot of it's about awareness. And I think all the time it's important to do this, but even more so now, to do a self-check in before the client arrives, and just scan your body, your emotions, and see how you're feeling, what you might be bringing into the session, and really just again, developing that awareness, and then developing the tools to separate yourself from that and start this new communication in a fresh blank slate kind of a way and not be carrying things forward.

23:11 DM: Right, yeah. At least, for me, when I'm teaching, which are my type of clients, I'm always coming from a place of love. So I think most of you are coming from a place of love or a place of healing as well, and so that needs to be the focus at that time. And if that's what we can focus our thoughts on, then some of your own reaction and emotions will fade in the background, and it's about this experience in this moment.

23:32 DB: What do you find is the best way to communicate change to others? And right now, that can specifically be about new sanitation or PPE protocols, a rate increase.

23:43 DM: Yeah, and they're all so different. But the main thing's I think people always wanna know the why, and so I always think, my husband is in marketing and the term he always uses is you have to sell the why. So it's not just explaining it. So a lot of times I start with something like. "To increase our safety." Or "To protect our clients." One of those things right out of the gate that will help people understand why, but then going through the process of why. And even things with rate increases, I think if people understand like my costs have now gone up 'cause I have to pay for all of these PPEs, I have to pay for all of the hand sanitizer, I have to do all of this.

24:20 DM: There are gonna be those two people who are somewhat still angry and like, "That shouldn't be my problem," but I think most people are really understanding, and then they do see it as that business interaction with, "Oh, here's why some of this might be changing and I wanna help." I think most people are generally good and they wanna help. And so if you explain it, one, it might calm them down, but, two, for all you know, you might find someone who even has a better supply chain to some things, if that is part of the reason for the cost or the PPE. And I do think that you're always gonna have some who are gonna disagree with you, of course, so doing the benefit isn't always gonna help. They're gonna be like, "But I heard X" or "I did this."

24:56 DM: And so then that key piece, I think, is trying to explain, "We're trying to benefit the most people and protect the most people." And even if one person doesn't think, for example, that wearing a mask makes a difference, what if it does? And there's the one client who's gonna be upset, and so again, putting in through the... Especially, I think, with the work that all of you do, that it can be somewhat of an intimate experience. And if someone isn't comfortable with you, they may not come back in, they may not want your services. So I think again explaining, "This isn't just for you. It's for all of my clients, and it's for everyone, and here's why we're doing it and putting that in. And I understand you might have heard this, but we've also heard this, and since we don't know, my angle is to protect everybody, or as many people as I can." But really putting that benefit piece up, I think calms people down a little bit to where they start to understand and at least have that connection with you. Like, yeah, you're not trying to do anything to hurt them. You're doing it for other reasons.

25:51 KC: Absolutely, I love that. And also, I wonder if now is a really great time to reach out to colleagues and really establish your mentor circle so that you can share things that have worked or not worked with each other. So I know that some of my experiences, again, from a few friends who've gone back to practice, they are rapid fire sharing with each other, and everyone's learning on the fly and on the go, but this applies to languaging too. So it could be where you phrased something a certain way that really went over well and you wanna share that with others. Or maybe you've learned that not so fun lesson of, "This really did not go so great." [chuckle] But you wanna share that too.

26:29 DM: Yes, absolutely. I think as much as you can share what's working and what's not. And some of that's also gonna be, you know your clients, when you're going back, or who you're communicating to, so hopefully you know what works for them. But there's things we've learned in the coaching world where I used to ask people, "Why?" Like, "Why do you think that?" But very many people actually see "Why?" as very confrontational. So that's one of those key words that if you start asking somebody with, "Well, why do you think that?" and they have a bad reaction, and you're like, "Oh, okay. 'Why' is not a good way to do that." Instead, it might come from a new way with, "Okay, so tell me how you got to this point" or "Tell me what you've heard that made you wanna do this," or whatever it might be. So I think definitely changing that phrasing is good, and trying to again, be prepared and aware, and then sharing all of those ideas with what's working, what's going well, absolutely. The more you can share, the better, I think.

27:21 DB: What advice do you have for therapists right now who have clients that may be resisting some of the changes to protocols that have been instituted because of COVID, like the introduction of masks or increased sanitation?

27:34 DM: Yeah, so that's hard, especially I think if it's someone that you don't know, but if it's your client that you do know, I would say as much as you can customize. So just warning them. Again, if it's whether you text or send an email, if you're on the phone with them, whatever it might be, just reminding and saying, "There are gonna be some new protocols," and if they say, "Yeah, I'm against this," you know, just be prepared for that. I think if you know your clients, most likely the ones you know, at least, you can anticipate who might say what. And there's times when I've even said to someone like my students or clients I've worked with, where I'm like, "I know you're not gonna like this, but we all have to do it and here's why." But again, just having that acknowledgement piece to some of those that are a little bit harder. But again, I think always going through the benefits and why you're doing it as well. So it's not just the benefit, even if you're keeping people healthy let's hope, but there are liabilities and there are regulations and there are some consequences possibly to... I don't know if it really affects that you might lose your license, it might keep you from doing more business, or it might hurt your reputation, and so there's other reasons for it that might be secondary.

28:36 DM: I would focus first on the, how you're protecting people and why, but with some of those harder people, I might put those pieces in there as well with, "Well, I really... I have to make a living too, and that means I have to really do my best to make sure everyone's healthy. Not just you, but everyone. And if someone comes in and we're not wearing masks, so they don't see this, that can hurt my reputation, that can hurt my livelihood." And I think most people then at least come around because they don't wanna intentionally hurt you. They might just have this ideology that "Okay, I'm not gonna wear the mask," or "I don't have to sanitize because I've heard... " If they're listening to a certain station or their friends, "That I don't have to do that." But if you put it in and say, "But here's how it is impacting me, and here's how it might hurt me or others," more people are likely to understand and say, "Okay."

29:20 DM: You're still gonna have some of those who, bottomline, are stubborn and they want what they want and they wanna be heard, and those are the times when you again have to decide what's that end relationship you want. Is it a point where you do have to stand up more and just really try to explain it and say, "I know maybe you don't like it, but here's what I have to do. And that's part of being a client"? Of course, a little bit harder when you think the client might walk out and you needed that money, but as much as you can, again, to say, "Here's what I need as well. What do you need? How can we come together?" And then focusing on that piece of, "Here's what I need, here's what you need. What we're really here today is to help you feel better."

29:53 DB: I feel like you've spoken eloquently about holding firm on your rules. What about those who are trying to get you to bend your rules and they're bringing guilt into the conversation? Because I feel like that's where it gets really tough because they're really playing with your heart strings and your emotions.

30:12 DM: Super hard. But it goes back to you, bend the rules for one, you're gonna have to bend the rules for everybody. And we also have to think long-term what do people say? So I'm guessing that a lot of your business comes from referrals, and so again, that's a hard piece with you want people to refer you, and so you have to think if this person goes out and goes, "Okay, well, I went to get a massage, and they didn't make me wear the mask." Is that the reputation you want, and is that a good thing? 'Cause then you'll have people coming back in who aren't wearing masks, or are you gonna scare away the people who are?

30:42 DM: So that's one thing that I always consider is you have to think about yourself as well and what's best for you. And I also tell that sometimes to the clients with, "I understand this might be really hard for you, but if I bend it for you, I'm gonna have to for other people. Or it might get out that we don't do that, and we really have to make sure that we are following the laws. I don't want people to get the reputation where they think that we're not doing what we're supposed to be doing, or that we don't care about people's health. And even though that's not what you might be thinking, that's how it can be perceived, so I really cannot make this exception."

31:14 DB: What are the communication tools that you recommend we always keep in the back of our mind and bring to every interaction?

31:20 DM: Don't judge. Again, there's so many times when I've seen people in this environment now, where they see someone walk in, don't wear a mask, and they instantly assume they know their political affiliation, or that they're doing it for a certain reason, where then it might turn out that this person actually isn't wearing a mask because maybe they have asthma or one of the other diseases where people have said they don't have to wear masks. And then they are also in that position of, "Well, how do I tell people that? Do I put a sign on my head? What do we do?" So I think just don't making those judgements and assumptions, in this case around that, but always we tend to think certain things might have other meaning and it really may not. And we don't know what's going on, I think. We don't know, like this interview said, what people are bringing with them.

32:02 DM: So if someone's coming in and this is their first massage, maybe they haven't really been out for the four months, they might have a completely different reaction than someone... If you have a client who happens to... Let's say like a doctor or nurse. So someone who's been out in it every day. And so I think just really understanding that not everyone has the same perception. And right now we're in this big time of fear and uncertainty, but I think in any everyday communication, again, still trying to think that different people have different lives and different backgrounds, and they're coming with different information, so not trying to make that assumption.

32:36 DM: And so part of that, again, I think is really listening, and most of us are not as good at listening as we think. And then also asking some questions. So instead of just assuming again, or thinking that we can't ask, finding the right way to say, "Can you tell me more about that?" or "Can you tell me how you came to that conclusion?" or "I haven't heard that. I'd love to see that article. And then maybe I'll change something." And again, that's more right now, but I think in any time really setting our intent to create a good relationship, not just being right or not just winning or not making sure we're heard, but really trying to have a good relationship is gonna be the key. And again, that's whether it's someone in your family, your best friend, a client, but I think really just trying to come together with what's gonna make this relationship work, and what can I do better, what do I need to tell someone else to do better? I think those are always the good things.

33:26 DM: So again, listening, client questions. Right now, but other times as well, I would say always be kind and empathetic. So I would always err on that side. Again, we don't know what people have been through. So many people right now may have been sick, and again, they might think in their minds, "I've already had it, so I can't get it again." Which we don't necessarily know. And then we might have someone else who had a family member who's had it and died and they might be even extra fearful of that. But even in everyday interactions, we don't know what people have been through that day or what's going on with them, so I'd always say try to be kind and give people the benefit of the doubt, because we don't know what they're going through, and that's why we need to ask, and we need to listen, and we need to work on communication. It's hard. That process is hard. It takes time, and I think we all just want it to be quick and easy, and it's not. So I would say really putting in the effort for those relationships that are important.

34:20 DB: I want to thank Dr. Kerry Mitchell for joining us today. If listeners have any follow-up questions, where can they reach you?

34:28 DM: I'm on just about every social site, I think, but email is probably a good way. So email kerrymitchell1@gmail.com is a good way. I'm also on Facebook, LinkedIn with my company which is moxysolutions.net.

34:44 DB: Excellent, thank you so much for joining us, Kerry.

34:47 KC: Thanks, Kerry.

34:48 DM: Thank you. Appreciate being here.


34:56 Speaker 5: This has been a production of Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. ABMP is the leading association for massage therapists and bodywork professionals in the United States and beyond. From liability insurance to professional advocacy, award winning publications to the world's largest continuing education library for massage, to this podcast, no organization provides more for its members and the profession than ABMP. ABMP works for you.

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