If you’re a shy person who is thinking about massage therapy as a career, know that it can be a really amazing experience. Throughout school, you’ll develop the ability to help others relax and heal, to understand people’s body language, and to react appropriately. This non-verbal connection is one of the things that draws many shy people to the field. But once you begin giving massages to strangers in your student clinic or as part of an internship, you’ll find that you actually do need to speak with your clients, and sometimes about potentially awkward subjects. Here are some tips to help you move forward towards becoming the confident, articulate, and assertive massage therapist you long to be.
Start with a script.
Sure, spontaneity in conversation is a great thing … once you’re comfortable. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with starting out with a basic script for situations that you know will occur regularly. Write down what you’ll say when
- first greeting a client
- doing an initial intake
- explaining clothing/positioning/draping
- asking for feedback about pressure or position
- finishing a massage
- scheduling a massage
- whatever else you struggle with or feel worried about
If you’re not sure what to say, ask your instructor! She might have guidelines or suggestions that can help.
Practice makes perfect.
Practice your scripts until you feel comfortable with them. You can practice by yourself in the privacy of your home, and also with any friends, family, or classmates that you practice your massage techniques on. Explain to them that, even though they’re familiar to you, you’ll be treating them like new clients so that you can get more experience working through the whole process. If you find that one of your scripts doesn’t work very well (maybe people aren’t very clear on where they can put their clothes, for example), then adjust it and keep on practicing.
Know your limits.
If you’re a shy person, it can be especially difficult to speak up if you’re put in a difficult situation. Know your boundaries and what you consider to be inappropriate behavior on behalf of a client. Your school probably has explicit instructions to follow in a situation like this. Don’t let embarrassment prevent you from standing up for yourself!
Limits can also be personal. If a client asks you a question that you don’t feel like answering, you can just say “Let’s focus on your massage,” and move on. Just because something isn’t unethical doesn’t mean you’re obliged to be comfortable with it.
Track your progress.
Journaling is a great way to reflect on your feelings and experiences in massage school and beyond. After a few months, it can be a good idea and read what you’ve written. It can be a huge confidence booster to see how far you’ve come!
Remember, you’re the expert.
Even if you’re still early in your education, you know enough for your teachers to be trusting you to share your skills with clients. You do deserve to be there, and don’t let anyone make you feel differently! Everyone, even the most experienced professionals, have occasional awkward moments where they are embarrassed, don’t know what to say, or say the wrong thing. With work you can get better at interpersonal communication, just as you’ll get better at releasing trigger points or palpation skills. By graduation day, you can show everyone just how brightly the shy student can shine.