In my opinion, the lessons we learn from interacting with other people surpass the value of anything we learn in text books or courses. Unfortunately, these lessons are often under valued because people view social interactions as leisure time, and not as an activity that leads to greater personal development. However, we wouldn't be able to read books, or go to universities without the professors, and other students who dedicate themselves to education. Students often lack gratitude for their professors, while putting heavy importance on receiving their degrees. I believe this is backwards. Obviously, reading books and taking courses can exponentially increase knowledge because it gives us the ability to learn from people we may not have the chance to be in contact with. However, this type of learning should not replace what we gain from the people close to us.
I know that "would you rather" questions are somewhat unrealistic because in actuality one usually doesn't have to choose between two extremes but, if you asked me, "If you had to live your entire life without reading a book, or without the ability to laugh with another person, which one would you live without?", I would clearly give up books. Luckily, I have the ability to laugh with other people, and read books. Here is a brief explanation of why I would choose my answer:
Things I learn from laughing: Life is not that serious, I'm capable of being happy, my friend just farted, I can make falling, running out of gas, and tragedy all enjoyable if humor is involved.
Things I learn from reading: Life is not that serious, 55 researched ways to be happy, the type of gas that comes out when you fart, how to fill up my tank of gas, the most common places to injure oneself when falling. ( I could learn all these things directly from other people as well).
There are a lot of "how to" answers we can get from reading, and I don't think any of these lessons are worth it except if applied with real people in real situations.
This brings me to the real point of this blog which is that, it is as important to be able to communicate and interact with people effectively, as it is to provide a high quality service in whatever you do. Here are three things I've learned about conversation, simply by talking and having personal relationships. I think these lessons can be applied to personal training, because you have to deal with a lot of different types of people one on one.
1.) Silence does not inherently mean something negative, and if it does leave the person alone about it.
"You are awfully quiet today, is there something wrong?". This might be my least favorite question in the universe. First of all, it makes the assumption that there is something wrong with someone else when maybe they are just lost in a fantasy of how awesome their life is. Then when someone asks them whats wrong, they begin to ask themselves "what is wrong with me?, why am I quiet?". Second of all, even the loudest people in the universe sometimes don't want to talk. Thirdly, If there is something wrong a person cared to explain, they wouldn't be sitting their in silence. People often want confirmation that the reason other people around them aren't in a good mood, isn't their fault. People generally take someone not wanting to speak to them as a bad sign, and feel like they need to ask the person if they are okay just to validate that the person isn't being quiet because they are made at them. However, people will like you more if you let them act and feel how they desire to act and feel. Sometimes people are just enjoying being less talkative and it has nothing to do with something personal. I've heard many people say, that the people they are closest with are ones they can sit in complete silence with and still feel comfortable.
I like to just ask people" How are you today?", if the person says they are doing great, then I leave it alone.
Client Experience: I train a few clients who are under the age of 14. It is guaranteed that if they come in and are barely speaking it probably has to do with how mad they are that they had to go to school that day, or they are just tired. It has nothing to do with me. If I ask them why they are quiet, they will be quiet for the rest of the session and possibly the week. If I just wait for something funny to happen during the session, they will likely break the silence and we will end up having a sword fight with foam rollers for 15 minutes. Point being, let people live in whatever mood they want to. Asking people whats wrong with them usually makes more wrong with them, rather than creating happiness.
2.) Inform people of your opinion, without trying to convince anyone that your opinion is factual.
I love engaging in conversation with individuals who have a different set of beliefs and opinions than me. It gives me the ability to learn, and gain new perspectives. However, nothing is more frustrating than a person who will not exit a conversation until the person on the other end agrees with their point of view. It is also difficult to communicate with people who take it personally when you do not feel the same way as them. Newsflash, there is not a single person in the world who is exactly like you, or believes 100% of the same things as you believe. Taking differences personally, or not accepting that others disagree with you is an excellent way to turn a fascinating conversation into an argument. I've learned that when dealing with people like this it is best to accept their point of view before the conversation even starts. The person never gets to know my true opinion, but who cares as long as I can ward off an unpleasant conversation. It is wiser to accept others than try to force others to accept you.
I think people who can't stand to hear opposition, don't even believe their own hype and question themselves in any scenario where anyone else questions them. By convincing others of their point of view, they can validate their own point of view. I think this because when a person believes something wholeheartedly, it rarely matters if anyone else feels the same way.
I've learned that people create their vision of the world on their own time, and not when you want them to. This is a lesson that comes up time and again as a personal trainer. People are not going to eat what I tell them to eat, or workout how I tell them to workout accept if they want to. I also will get nowhere telling anyone to eat apples who thinks apples are trash. I like to inform clients of healthy behaviors and provide suggestions. It is most important to me to help clients find what makes them personally feel healthy. I am not a god of healthy behavior. I am just a person who enjoys living and wants to do what I can to help others enjoy it to. I do this with exercise and nutrition, but I understand that there are many other ways to be happy.
When I first started personal training I really thought there was only one way to lose weight, that healthy food meant it was healthy for everyone, and that if you didn't stick to the same regimen I followed you wouldn't get the same results that I got. With time I've realized that the best way to be healthy, is to partake in a regimen that you can do consistently. AND THIS IS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE. Some individuals can make it to the gym 6 days a week, and some can only make it 1 time. For both people they are still doing something positive for their health. Possibly the person who only works out 1 time a week, does beach clean ups and spends time with their family during the other 5 days of the week. Perhaps the person who works out 6 days a week doesn't have a family and they gauge their well being solely on workout performance. Both of these people are doing the right thing.
Additionally, there are so many forms of exercise that there is no need to convince anyone that one form is better than another. If somebody tells me they walk most places I'm ecstatic for them. I am an enthusiast of all things movement. Some people benefit more from yoga, some from weight training, some from long distance running. Most people workout in order to receive some sort of benefit whether that is psychological, or physiological. Just because one form of activity has failed to benefit you is no reason to convince someone else to not engage in what they enjoy. As a personal trainer, it is a necessity to positively approach all forms of exercise whether it is a form you practice or do not. The most rational, and intellectual of human beings can see the benefit in all things, and do not narrow their minds to one subset of life in a world of infinite variety.
It is a great practice to make clients feel comfortable telling you anything, whether it is unhealthy or healthy.
A community where all opinions and views are accepted is the type in which I want to be. This community includes with whom and where I choose to workout.
3.) Changing your personality to make the other people around you feel comfortable is not being fake, it is being respectful.
You do not need to push your personality on other people in the light of "being real", when your real self is offensive. I am capable of having a very morbid sense of humor. However, I know what types of people will find my humor funny versus ones who will find it off putting. I see no benefit in carrying on, saying whatever I please just because "its me" to do so and I don't care what anyone thinks (although I used to see a benefit in this). It is in no way "me", to make other people feel bad. There are plenty of people in the world who will let you act however you please, and will like you more for doing so. There are also many people who will not. You will have to engage with both types of people in life. I think the most intelligent people can mold their personalities to reflect the energy and interests of the people around them and this has nothing to do with being fake.
For a long time I felt there was no way that I could make it in a society where you had to be professional, go to school, go to work, wake up at the same time every day, go to bed early etc. (turns out of all of these things have been very positive for my life). I have always been extremely rebellious and radical in my views and I thought there was no way in hell that socialization would accept me. I would have to make my own island where people just ate coconuts and danced for eternity in order to fit in. I still struggle with this concept, because I can feel a bit disconnected due to the fact I have many views of how life should be that do not run parallel to anything that is reality... seriously I'm that far out there. These struggles are of my own making, and the out casting of myself. I would have thoughts about how there was no way I would make it in the health and fitness industry because everyone who is healthy, is not wild enough for me, and doesn't have the same background as I do. Well it turns out you don't need to be wild or go through the same hell and back as I went through to be awesome. Almost all people eventually go through hell and back in one form or another. I still have my wild outlandish views, but I feel comfortable keeping them from people who may not care to talk about them.
Although the land of professionalism can harbor some uprightness, ironically, some of the craziest people I've met have been in the gym. Recently, an older man I engaged in conversation with at the gym told me that the only reason he moved from his condo to his own house was because he can now walk from his home to his car naked without being seen (profound).
Anyway, the point is that it's not fake to not always say exactly what your feeling when your feeling it for the sake of getting along with other people. I don't think the naked driver would have lost any of his spunk had he not shared with me the reason he moved from his condo to his house. Sometimes I will be out of this world hyperactive and the friend I'm around is tired so I will tone it down in respect for them. Sometimes people want to be silent when you want to talk and managing a bit of quiet isn't the worst thing. People will have different political views than you, and for the sake of letting them express themselves you don't express your own. I find that by not being so outward, one can become a better listener. By conforming to another person's view and energy, you can experience different ways of being and living. You can do this without losing your true self.
How this relates to personal training, is that a personal trainer must work with a very diverse group of people. If you can not entertain a wide variety of ideas, thoughts, and ways of communicating you will be very limited in your clientele and relationships.
I will conclude by saying this is a very opinionated and personal post. Please feel free to leave your comments below as I would like to hear your opinions as well! Many of the lessons I've learned have been deviated from just by writing this. The post is pretty real, loud, and outward. Maybe I'm still learning!
Points to Acknowledge:
- The success and knowledge that comes from human interaction is infinite
- Reading and education is amazing and the people who provide these wonderful services should be acknowledged
- Silence can mean a world of things, but it usually means a person doesn't want to talk
- Try your best to not take things personally
- Informing others of your opinions is great, trying to make others agree with your opinions is not so great
- There is nothing wrong with sacrificing some of what you think and feel to make others happy or comfortable - just don't go so far as to sacrifice yourself
- HAVE A KICK BUTT WEEK EVERYONE!!!