A politeness conundrum. There are worse things, but for an entrepreneur this can be the worst of all fates. Preventative measures can be taken, but it can still happen to the best of us. And often it means walking through intolerable awkwardness.
Of course, I’m talking about when clients cross the line and question your legitimacy by disrespecting the only thing more valuable than coin, and that is your TIME.
Its an awkward place to be and what’s worse, is when you have clients like the notorious canceler as your first client of the day. I used to have a 6:00 AM client who had a serious track record of canceling on me 20-30 mins prior to her session start time. By that time, I’d already been up for over an hour, had coffee, etc. I had woken up that much earlier for essentially NO reason. Of course I knew it would count as a forfeited (paid) session in my mind. But she didn’t always see it that way. Oh the awkwardness, it makes me shutter honestly just thinking about it. It’s clients like these that really put a kink in my day, rob me of precious sleep, and can drastically affect how I interact with other people later on.
From the time I started personal training I’ve had a contract that I give to each of my client’s and ask that they sign. It includes my 24-hour cancellation policy (which is actually quite generous because the likelihood that I will fill there slot within 24 hours with a different client is highly unlikely). But despite these preemptive measures (people rarely read what they sign) they often expect that I will bend the rules when it happens to them.
What it really boils down to, in my opinion, is respect (shout out to my girl Aretha). I have become more selective with my clients over the years not only to ensure that I get paid but also for my sanity. I honestly feel violated when someone treats me this way. And, like many of us, I have had to learn the hard way: to face the icky awkwardness and stand up for myself.
For me it’s only after I process through the anger and frustration, that I am able to articulate a professional and effective response. If you do not assert yourself from the begining with a client (or any relationship for that matter personal or professional), you are setting yourself up for a soured relationship. One where you hold contempt and resentment towards them for treating you this way. I often have to remind myself that they may not even be aware of how their actions are affecting me.
It’s important to remember that the boundaries we hold for ourselves reveal to others, what we will put up with. In other words, what we tolerate communicates to others how they can treat us.
We are in more control of our lives than we allow ourselves to believe. So communicating specific boundaries is key. Verbalizing the exact protocol of what they can expect to happen for instance; should they arrive 20 mins late to a session.
When you’re not sure how to communicate your feelings to someone – in ANY capacity – you can feel trapped. There are a number of uncomfortable situations that I’ve encountered: that client who likes to call to talk excessively about unrelated topics. The person who berated me with text messages to complain about every single meal that she was eating. The person who wants to move a million-miles-per-hour through the workout to sit in a puddle of their own sweat but can’t balance on a single-leg for 10 seconds at a time. The client who repeatedly forgets their wallet come pay day, and wants to “get it to you next time”. The male client who writes a check and tells me to “go buy something pretty”. The person who is notoriously late to their sessions and is frustrated at the fact that they aren’t seeing results. This is especially frustrating because I take it personally and often see this as my own fault. It’s a downward spiral of me believing I have failed them.
I say all of this because I no longer want to hold in the negativity. I want to let it go. I don’t want it to fester inside of me anymore. I know that by sharing this you might feel unsettled. A personal trainer is supposed to be upbeat and positive all the time right? And yes, I think I’m pretty darn good at what I do but it’s not always what it seems.
My hope is that by sharing the things that people often keep under wraps, that it will in some capacity, assure you that you are not alone. I have accepted that what I say may not resonate with everyone but I no longer agree to allow fear to hold me back. Some people aren’t ready to receive what we have to say but that is not our fault and shouldn’t prevent us from putting out there what we believe will help others. If we allow our fear of what people will think to hold us back, then we are only belittling ourselves. I share this with you today to move one step closer to freedom; to no longer live as a smaller version of myself.
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