Read my blog post on the CAN FIT PRO Blog:
A gym is very much like a small town…
People get to know one another and talk about whatever is going on in the community. Sometimes this friendly conversation can turn in to negative gossip. It’s amazing what people choose to discuss and for the most part it’s easy going conversation. What happens if there’s someone amongst the crowd who gossips and puts down other people? Maybe this person says negative things about your gym. I’ve experienced that before. Some people have nothing better to do than spread negative gossip. It’s important to know how to handle this situation.
There’s A Time and Place
First of all a gym is not the place to discuss serious topics. I’ve had people get in to shouting matches over which politician they hate. I’ve had to intervene several times and say, “Hey guys. Let’s keep it light. This is a gym, let’s keep things positive.” It’s important to not let these kinds of conversations escalate beyond friendly banter. While I appreciate you can’t monitor every conversation, it’s important not to take sides. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I tell people, “There’s a time and place for certain conversations and the gym isn’t that place. People come here to escape the rigors of life. Let’s keep things light and positive.” I don’t go out of my way to embarass anyone. I just make sure to assert myself if and when conversations escalate. I tell people privately, “If you find that you don’t get along with this person, choose to do your own thing and don’t engage this person.” That normally solves the problem.
I’m sure we’ve all met this kind of person at the gym. This person is nothing but negative. In fact people tend to avoid this type of person. If and when they do choose to converse, it’s often a complaint. They’ll complain to anyone and everyone about what’s wrong with the gym. The only person they won’t talk to is the manager. I’ve heard things through the grapevine. In these situations I make a point if reaching out to this person privately. “Hi there. I appreciate you have some concerns about our gym. I’d love for you to let me know what you think so I can fix these issues.” I’ve even been in the bathroom and clients walk in unsuspectingly. These people have proceeded to make negative comments about our fitness classes, or about this person in the gym or even about me. I normally just come out and say, “You know what. You’ve got some interesting points there. I’d certainly appreciate you discussing it with me personally the next time. I’d be happy to help you.”
I’ve learned how to assert myself without being rude. I let them know that I don’t appreciate negative comments. In the same sense, if they have legitimate complaints I’m happy to listen.
When Gossip Goes too Far.
It hasn’t happened often. When gossip goes too far, then we simply give the person an opportunity to change the behavior. If they don’t change their behavior then we ask them to leave. It is your right as a manager to give somone a fair chance to change their behavior. You can only give them so many chances. If someone is mean and is saying nasty things about you or other members, then they need to go. You can’t have those kinds of people in your gym. It negatively impacts you and your members. You have to keep it professional.
“Out of courtesy to you, I’m letting you know that we’ve had several complaints and would like you to address and fix this problem. If you cannot change your behavior and these issues continue, then we will have to ask you to leave.”
The purpose here is not to embarass anyone. The next purpose is to assert yourself properly. The ultimate goal is to allow this person to improve their behavior. If they don’t, at least you did them the courtesy of letting them know. Asking someone to leave is never easy. It’s important to do it in a way that is both professional and courteous. “We thank you for your business. We’d like to wish you the best of luck in the future at another facility.”
You are the professional! Always, above all… Treat others the way you want to be treated.
It’s like taking driving lessons from someone who’s never driven.
Have you ever been working out in the gym and started chatting with a random stranger? Then you find yourself showing this person how do do an exercise, “Oh, this is what I do.” You tell them. While I appreciate the intention is to help someone out, you really are putting yourself at risk. You really don’t know this persons’ medical background or fitness level. Suggesting an exercise to a stranger is taking a chance. If this person has a herniated disk and you recommned deadlifts… lets just say it doesn’t end well.
I hear this far too often and I’m quicker to intervene. Someone who offers you exercise advice has good intentions, but isn’t qualified or expert in movement. It frustrates me when people who have no experience feel the need to share their information with others. This can be quite damaging.
If you give out advice to someone and they get hurt… its your fault.
If you have no experience or background working in the exercise profession then you don’t have the right to give people the wrong information. This is a human body. You cannot diagnose someone within two minutes of talking to them. Designing an exercise program takes more than jotting down reps and sets. If you have no experience designing programs or haven’t worked with any clients, then you have no experience. Don’t just assume what you say is going to be right for this particular person. If you’re wrong, you risk their safety.
I say this because it’s my job to look after my clients. Someone who’s giving advice can get in big trouble if they give the wrong advice. Someone who’s taking advice can get hurt if they take the wrong advice. So if you are a Personal Trainer and notice this amongst your members, I encourage you to speak to both parties. Apprise them of the fact that they are liable if they give advice and someone gets hurt. Most people don’t know that. Encourage these people to seek out your assistance if they have questions about an exercise. Then the onus is on you and not on them. You are the professional.
I don’t want anyone getting hurt. I don’t want anyone getting sued. I appreciate people just want to help. It’s like taking driving lessons from someone who’s never driven. I don’t want you to crash!
There’s often a misconception about personal trainers…
We’re not here to cheat you out of money and provide services you don’t need. Some of us are. I am not. We don’t all take sales classes and taught how to coherse people in to buying services. That’s what people really thing we’re out to do. I am not refined in the art of negotiation. It took making a lot of mistakes in order to learn how to talk to people. That’s all this job is… it’s really learning how to talk to people and helping them with what they need.
Yes, I have to pay bills too. So if you walk up to me and ask me a question, I’m not trying to be rude. We dedicate our time to everyone as much as possible. There are those that require specialized training such as rehab for hip/knee replacements, stroke rehab, cardiac rehab. These are paid clients that invest their money in our services. It is our job to provide more specialized programs for specialized needs. We cannot give out free advice because then we can’t pay our bills. It’s no different from you being paid in your job. You would expected to be compensated for your time and effort. We are in the same boat.
We don’t always have the luxury of steady pay. We count on steady clients to invest their money. If one client drops off, that can mean a big difference. That is money we aren’t getting paid. If you think we’re rolling in wads of money and buying fancy clothes, you’d be incorrect. Often trainers have to take on a second job because a lack of steady pay in their desired profession. It’s a reality that I’ve faced plenty of times.
Our profession does get a bad name because of bad trainers. Those who are out to earn money fast often do a poor job. Then those who do a great job don’t get paid enough. We are not doctors, but we do save peoples lives. I believe that our services are necessary for a good quality of life. I’ve worked with cancer patients, stroke patients, dementia patients and parkinsons patients. It’s taken time, energy and money to learn what I know. The human body is the greatest puzzle you could ever solve. To think that somehow my job is about reps and sets is ignorant quite frankly.
My job is to educate and help others learn how to move. I’ve spent my whole life learning how to do that. Be careful the next time you insist a Personal Trainer isn’t worth the investment. It makes me happy to help people. There’s a difference between someone like me vs. someone who’s trying to sell you a product. I help people. I believe I can help anyone. I say that not to be cocky, but because I’d be willing to try anyway. I will do anything to help anyone if they need it.
Yes, personal trainers are people too. We have thoughts, feelings and emotions. We have families, friends and bills to pay. Sometimes we struggle to make ends meet as well. Don’t be so quick to paint us all with the same brush.
On that note… back to work I go.