Communication skills are one of the most important qualities for becoming a massage therapist since massage therapy is a profession that "requires constant one-on-one contact" (Yellow Page College Directory). Effective communication skills are critical to establish rapport between the client and the therapist (The Institute for Advanced Therapeutics, 2005). Especially clients' impression on a therapist, whether positive or negative, are usually formed in the first few minutes of communication (The Institute for Advanced Therapeutics, 2005). These impressions will be very likely to influence the outcome of a massage treatment (The Institute for Advanced Therapeutics, 2005).
Massage therapists need to listen carefully to their clients in order to understand what they want to achieve in the massage therapy (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S.). Then they can respond to clients' communication and cater to the clients' needs during the session (Arizona Western College). In other words, we can say that communication is the precondition which makes massage therapy work in the first place.
Good communication skills can also build trust and gain loyal clients (Arizona Western College). Good communication skills are also an effective way to attract new clients by maintaining an interpersonal relationship with current customers who can refer additional clients.
Michael Broas (LMT), who teaches Communication Skills for many years at Florida School of Massage, talks about the importance of communication skills for a professional massage therapist:
Tips for Being a Good Communicator in Massage Therapy (The Institute for Advanced Therapeutics, 2005):
Keep eye contact. Lack of eye contact can be interpreted by the client as dishonesty or nervousness, which may result in trust issues.
Maintain a light conversation. It's especially important when you are greeting the client for the first time. Remember to smile and use light humor (no sexual or offensive humor) if possible to help the client relax. It's crucial to show the client your amiability and respect.
Observe carefully. You should observe the client's behavior in order to find a better way of communication to make them comfortable. Some clients are "firendly and open", while others may "act guarded and distant". You should recognize the difference and communicate with each client in the way that works for him.
Show respect. Nowadays you have more opportunities to meet people from various cultural backgrounds. You should respect the client's cultural and religious customs no matter how strange it may seem to you.
Develop good interview manners. State your questions clearly and precisely when interviewing the client before the session. It's polite to allow the client to answer at his or her own pace. Do not try to finish answering the questions for the client even if he or she seems to be slow in answering it. Pay full attention to listen carefully to the client's response and wait a few seconds to respond after you think the client is done.
Explain clearly. Explain clearly the procedures of the massage session to the client, especially to people who have no former massage recieving experience, so that the client can keep relaxed and calm. For example, where to undress, when to start the session, and how the drape will be moved during the session (the level of body exposure) are all important questions that clients need to know.