Walking through the mall, I see a familiar face. She's walking with her son, and though I recognize both, their names don't immediately come to mind.
Rather than avoid eye contact, I give my biggest smile and wave. I introduce my wife, who knows immediately what I'm up to. She extends her hand, and they introduce themselves.
I'm sure you've been there: a long-ago client walks up in the mall, and you're happy to see them but can't immediately recall any details about their lives. After a few hundred clients, and more years than I can remember, the Tracys and Tanias tend to get a bit mixed up.
If you're like me, you just need a little hint. Give me a name, a friend's name, an event....and I'm home free. I'll talk for hours. I can remember details well....just not all the time.
When a new client comes in the door, it's critical to build rapport as quickly as possible. Establishing a relationship and demonstrating commonality helps the client by removing social barriers to joining. Perception of acceptance makes the fitness world go 'round. If different demographics weren't threatened by others, we wouldn't see womens'-only gyms, would we?
If a new member can see that you care; that you have experience with similar cases; that you're intelligent enough to intuit what they're not saying, they'll feel at ease.
Luckily, there's a cheat sheet. Here it is, by Ian Rowland: The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading. It's a fascinating read.
If you've ever visited a 'psychic,' you've likely been surprised at how accurate their predictions and 'readings' seemed. "Wow," you'll say to yourself, "I can't believe she said that. How could she know about my grandfather? She totally pegged me." You KNOW it's fakery - it can't be real, can it? - but you're not sure how she did her verbal magic.
This is how. It's called, "cold reading." Magicians do it, tarot card readers do it, charismatic leaders like Bill Clinton do it. They seem to remember every minute detail about you, though they haven't seen you in years.
Though it's a bit of trickery, 'cold reading' isn't necessarily bad. It overcomes "that awkward moment when...." It helps smooth the wheels of relationship-building. Yes, it can be used to coerce; it can also be used to make people feel welcome and valued.
Some highlights from The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading:
- Meeting and greeting is critical to the rest of the session. Rowland explains how best to do it on page 24.
- Establishing an intimate atmosphere (the client is the ONLY one who matters at that moment.) Page 25.
- Offering 'sugar lumps' to encourage disclosure
- Cold Reading and building rapport, page 247
- Making people like you, page 231
It's also a VERY entertaining read. Though Rowland isn't psychic, he HAS provided 'psychic services' and, even after informing his 'clients' that he's not psychic, they argue with him. They insist that he MUST BE. That's a rapport expert!