Anyone who works in the service industry realizes very quickly (at least I hope so) that interactions with females are entirely different than interactions with males. Despite being one, females intimidate me. There. I said it. I’m naturally more comfortable working with males, probably because I grew up with two brothers. Before becoming a trainer/coach I really didn’t have much interaction with other females and never really learned how to communicate to my ladies-in-arms.
Thankfully, being a coach has taught me how to communicate with both sexes effectively (and I’m still learning every day) and I thought I would share what I’ve learned thus far. My thoughts are specifically related to coaching/training but I feel that most of these are universal truths that can be applied in any situation. *Disclaimer* These are generalities and obviously don’t apply to every person, but I’ve found work most of the time.
Women: Corrections are often better received in the form of a conversation. For example, here is an actual conversation I’ve had with an athlete, obviously, not her real name:
Me: Hey Jessica, that was a pretty good deadlift. What I want you to do next time is push you butt back a little more. Have you ever seen Legally Blonde?
Jessica: Yeah, I loved that movie!
Me: It was cute wasn’t it? Anyway, remember the “Bend and snap” move she does in the movie?
Jessica: *giggles* yeah.
Me: Ok, I want you to do that when you set up for you deadlift. I want you to bend (I push my hips back) and snap (I stand up, mimicking deadlifting)
Jessica: Ooohhh. Got it!
No exaggeration there. And her next deadlift? Spot on.
Men: Corrections need to be direct, as precise as possible and with a visual demonstration. In contrast, here’s what I would say to a male athelete:
Me: Mike, shove your hips back and hump the bar on your way up. (demoing proper deadlift hip hinging as I say this)
Done. Next deadlift is exactly what I’m looking for. Most guys get bogged down with too many words that aren’t related to the instructions. Conversation isn’t necessary; I’ve found that teenage boys tend to tune me out if I do that.
Women- Trust you as a coach after they’ve gotten to know you as a person. When I first started working with Buttkamp (women’s only class) it wasn’t until after they liked me as a person that I could coach them more effectively. I had to demonstrate that I’m interested in them (which I am) and that I care about how they feel during the workouts (physically). With any woman I train I always ask a lot of personal (not intimately personal, but you know, asking about them, their kids etc) questions, ask if they “feel” the exercise and where they feel it and how-about-we-go-up-5-pounds-next-set.
Men- Trust you after you demonstrate you know what you’re talking about. Complete 180 from women. I have to coach a male and prove that I know what I’m talking about (it can take one set or one month depending on the guy) then they trust me as a coach. Also, in order to build a relationship with them, it’s based less on emotions and feelings and more about jokes, sarcasm and goofiness (which is probably why my poop and fart jokes go over really well).
Women- Will work hard but tend to underestimate their strength. I’ve found that I need to push women to go up in weight more often than not. I don’t think it’s lack of a desire to work hard (a lot of our female put most of the general male population to shame), I think they just tend to be less confident in their strength. I found that with encouraging weight increases, it’s also important to ensure those increases are doable to help build confidence.
Men- Will work hard but tend to overestimate their strength. Most males (not all, most) tend to jump the weight up too fast and we’re continually having to temper their desires back to safety (and reality).
The trick is to decrease the load enough to allow for good form yet still make them feel like they’re working hard. That, my friends, is a finely tuned skill.
Whether you’re working in a gym or in an office, communicating with men and women differ and in order to be effective, one needs to learn how to communicate with both. I’m glad I have a job that forces me to interact with both sexes. I still make blunders, gaffes and faux pas, but thankfully I can always just tell someone to crack a walnut (and they usually crack a smile too).