I often take a great deal of meaning from the interactions I have with both my massage and facial clients, going home thinking about our conversations and our time together. Health and beauty treatments are, after all, somewhat intimate in nature, so I never take what I do for my clients for granted.
Last May I went to the Hawaiian island of Molokai for a week with some friends for our annual retreat, where we spent time with two native spiritual healing women. I received encouragement and messages from both, but one of them told me something that has stayed with me ever since. “Speak your truth. Always.” I was taken aback, thinking I had always been an honest person. But this was different. It meant expressing what was in me. Following this advice can be a challenge for a number of reasons — rejection, doubt, and fear of loss, among others. We never know how our truths might be received. But just as with romantic feelings (cue the movie Love, Actually), one should express it whether or not that feeling might be returned in kind or even appreciated.
Recently a new female client came in for a back treatment for blackheads and/or acne on her back. To my disappointment, she didn’t want to complete the intake form, where she was asked to answer questions about her health, such as allergies, concerns about skin, medications, etc. This individual didn’t feel she needed to complete the form because, as she put it, “Nothing you use would be a problem anyway.” I explained to her that there could be ingredients in even the most natural of products capable of causing an allergic reaction. I went on to explain that to remove blackheads from her back, I would be using a cleanser containing salicylicand an exfoliator that contained it as well. A concerned look came over her face and she finally admitted that she was allergic to aspirin. Most people don’t realize salicylic is used to produce aspirin. Symptomatic allergic reactions to aspirin can include flushing, itchy rashes (hives), blocked and runny nose and asthma (sometimes severe), usually within an hour of taking a tablet. My eyes widened at the thought of not having known that before starting her treatment.
“Okay,” I said. “Let’s make sure we don’t have any other ingredients I need to be concerned about,” and I continued to ask her all the questions she would have completed on the intake form. If I had not probed further, there could have been serious consequences to my treatment. I shudder when I think about it now. There must have been reasons Sally hesitated to fill out her form, but I’ll never know them. I’m just grateful I was able to get the information out of her I needed to avoid a disaster.
Doing intakes on my clients enables me to learn so many things about them — information I refer to repeatedly each time I see them. I ask about common discomforts — what tends to be painful to them during a facial or a massage. I want everyone to have a pleasant, positive and productive session and walk away feeling they have received the ultimate in treatment and pampering. But when a client won’t talk to me about how the session is going for them, I can’t offer that level of service. In other words, I would rather the client speak their truth so I can make adjustments instead of waiting to tell me afterward. To a good service provider, information is king — never taken as an insult. When a client does not offer it, however, it’s as if he or she has robbed themselves of getting the service they wanted by preventing me from delivering it.
An example of good communication with my clients is a conversation I had with Dee before her massage appointment. Dee is a client I’ve seen several times during the last year and I look forward to her visits. She spoke her truth when she let me know that her body responded better to a more gentle touch, such as vibration, instead of digging into an area. I thanked Dee for letting me know and I made adjustments during our time together. The results were just what Dee was looking for, making me feel great about her treatment.
I often find myself unwittingly holding back instead of speaking my truth in all kinds of situations, but each time I do, I look back and have regrets. Don’t get me wrong — we should be careful about how we express ourselves to others. But think about how differently something could have turned out had you simply been more transparent about your feelings. In personal situations, how much more meaningful would your relationships be if you put thought into expressing your gentle truths to the ones you love? And in business situations, how much time (and money) could have been saved and how much better would a service have been if you had expressed your concerns, enabling the service provider to customize your experience?
I’m not saying this is easy. It’s still a struggle for me and it takes practice. But I encourage you to speak your truth. Always.