About four years ago, I launched my current massage practice with a group discount offer. A new client who'd bought the promo arrived at my office about five minutes after the appointment start time, which meant he was about 15 minutes late. I greeted him with a smile and handed him the standard intake paperwork. He immediately got upset, saying, "I hope the time I have to fill this thing out doesn't come out of my massage! That's how you people always do it. I paid for a 60 minute massage and I want 60 minutes!"
You can imagine my immediate reaction. I got pissed. It flashed through my mind like this, "Excuse me! You were advised to be here 10 minutes before your appointment to fill out paperwork. You arrived 5 minutes after your start time. How is this my fault?"
It's so tempting to point out policy. It's so annoying to have to cut into my lunch break to accommodate someone who's acting in a rude and inappropriate way.
What I said though went like, "Don't worry. It's not a big deal. Go ahead and fill out the paperwork, and I'll make a quick adjustment so you can get your full 60 minute massage. I want to make sure you have all the time you need to relax and unwind."
His mood changed in an instant. I didn't do what he was expecting. I treated him like we were already best friends. Like he was a VIP client, rather than a newbie with a discount massage voucher. And when I did this he became the nicest person in the world all of a sudden. Not only nice but apologetic. Not just apologetic but relaxed and happy!
I acted in a way contrary to expectation, because my intention around all my promotions is to meet my future clients and immediately start building a life-long connection. If I'd responded with what I was really thinking, we'd both have had a terrible time during the massage. He wouldn't have returned as a full price paying customer. He might even have left a bad review.
Instead, this particular client turned out to be one of my most loyal clients and a fan who raved about my work. He came regularly for several years before he passed away from cancer. Since he died, I often go back in my mind to the moment that we met and am so thankful that I responded the way I did. I'm grateful to have made that connection and been a meaningful part of his life. To have supported him through the end years is such a blessing.
I can think of a dozen stories that start out with conflict and end with compassion, connection and care. My hope is that all massage therapists will feel empowered in their practice to have truly generous minds and hearts that lead them where they want to go.