Stages of Change
We all want our clients to make sustainable healthy changes in their daily lives. That is probably the number one goal we have for our clients.
The benefits might change a little bit depending on who you are working with (trying to get someone to lose body fat vs. trying to get someone stronger and ready for a powerlifting meet) but the process is still very similar.
However not every client is ready to make those changes.
Pushing them to try to make the changes at the wrong time can backfire. It can make the process even longer and more difficult if not done correctly.
So how do you know when you can and can’t bring up change to your clients?
First off you have to know the different stages of change:
A person in this stage is either unaware or in denial that a change in necessary or wanted.
A person in this stage is aware that a change needs to be made but has mixed feeling about making the change.
Here your clients has expressed desire to make a behavior change within the next month and is seriously considering how he or she might go about doing it.
This is notably the hardest stage in most cases as it requires the client to expend physical energy to actually start making the change
Once the client has made the change consistently for six months they are in maintenance mode. They are still at risk of reverting to old patterns however the likelihood of maintaining the change is higher now that it has become a regular part of life.
It is also very important to realize that this is not always a linear process and clients will jump from stage to stage, even skipping stages once in awhile.
How to Communicate
Knowing when, and how, to communicate with your clients about the change is very important.
When a client is in contemplation mode and you demand they start a new habit right away, it can make them push back and avoid going after the desired change.
Listen to them and empathize with their concerns during contemplation.
Remember, they are not like you. They don’t breathe health and fitness all day long!
When they are in preparation, help guide them through the path on their own. Ask them if they would like any advice or hear any tips that your other successful clients have used in past. Help them come up with the path that they want to take.
It might not be the exact path YOU would have taken but since it is their choice, long term compliance will be much higher.
Even though it might not seem like it to you, this might be a really big leap for some of your clients. If you can build that trusting relationship, they will be more apt to listen to you during the process.
Once they hit action, this is where you are their biggest supporter! This is where you truly are a COACH – trying to motivate, inspire and encourage the whole time.
If they hit a speed bump, don’t just throw suggestion after suggestion at them. Sit down with them and help them come up with their new plan.
Remember, coaching is something we do WITH our clients, not AT them.
Start observing your clients and see if you can recognize these different stages of change within them. They can be a little tough to discover right away but soon you will know exactly where they are and what you can do to help them achieve the benefit they desire.