Help with a Client who is crossing the boundaries of client/trainer relationship
I have a client who wants to hang out and have me over to her house all the time. She also texts me all the time, with non-related personal training stuff, and wants to take me out to eat for special occasions.
I told her that she doesn't need to do that for me. I try to limit my texts to her now because I did go to her house 2-3 times before to be nice to her and have dinner. But it is weird because no one else is at her house and she is 45 years older than me, not friend age!
I am a straight woman, just 25 years old, but it just doesn't seem like a good idea anymore---I was trying to be nice but I believe she thinks I am her long lost granddaughter (or worse).
I don't want to be friends, just have a good client to trainer relationship and she seems to think I am to be her best friend. How do I tell her kindly that she needs to stop. Is there a code of ethics that specifies this, something sort of "excuse" as to not offend her---or is that not possible? I tried to be nice and kind by changing the subject when she asks me over, or say no thanks "you do not need to do that for me---etc., " but she is taking it way too far with texts/dinner/always wanting me to come over.
Suggestions on how professionally tell her to stop or is there a code of ethics that I can use to tell her she has to stop?
I can appreciate why you want to remain anonymous. Your situation is truly very challenging.
Before I offer a suggestion, here is what I understand. The individual you are training is 70 years old. This tells me a lot. It tells me that she has loads of life experience and likely has motives for getting for pally wally with you. The motives don't necessarily have to be negative. All I am saying that this is a person who has considerably more life experience than you.
I don't know if she is divorced, has children or even grandchildren for that matter. For me I would question, after all these years of living on this earth, where are her friends.
Because of her age, it is quite possible that she has lost friends in death or even a husband.
However, here is how I would approach it.
I am of the opinion that this will not be the first time someone has told her "No. I am unable." and I would then graciously say thank you for the invitation. From that point on I would continue to say No and graciously say thank you for the invitation.
I wouldn't give any explanations as to why I am unable to do whatever the request is. However, if your gut feeling is telling you not to do something you should honor your gut feeling.
She's a big girl. She'll get over it.
Joanne certainly has a point when she asks where her friends are. Unfortunately, some people do not have friends, and there is reason to believe that she drives away people with her - I assume - well-intentioned invitations.
You probably accepted some invitations initially which opened the door for her. From here on, you have to say 'No, thank you' without further explanation. Should she ask you why you no longer have time, be honest that you are not comfortable with this evolving relationship.
No, there is no code of ethics for this case behind which to hide. But be compassionate with her; it is possible that you are the only person she interacts with.
People want connections
Possibly you can suggest other activities to your client that she may enjoy.
It sounds like she is lonely.
I think it's important to be professional from the first moment on.
You are a young trainer, use this as an experience to look back on.
I'm a person who tends to deal directly with a situation. My advice would be to take on this uncomfortable conversation head-on. Sure, it might mean that this particular client-trainer relationship will come to an end and that would be unfortunate, but ultimately if you or she or both of you are uncomfortable under the existing professional relationship, then this situation truly has no long-term prospects anyway.
I would, in a gentle way of course, tell her that ethically you don't think that it's a good idea to socialize with your clients (if that's how you feel) and that it is not a personal decision but a professional one. If she refuses to understand or comply, then you may need to terminate this relationship.
I hope that this helps you in some way. Good luck!
Adding to the conversation, I think older clients, especially, tend to place a lot more value on the services that we provide as personal trainers than do younger clients. When you're able to take a client who is used to perhaps a "slower" way of life associated with age-related decline, and you're able to help that client walk better, have more energy, etc., those clients may look at you as sort of a "miracle worker" and they want to show just how appreciative they are that you helped them get their lives back. That kind of appreciation can come through in a number of ways. One of my clients, who is happily married, has offered to take my girlfriend and me out to dinner in the future. He has also told me that anytime we need a good vacation, he has no problem opening up one of his cabins at his resort for us, all we have to do is make the trip there. Just because clients offer things to you, doesn't mean you have to accept.
In fact, I would argue that from a professional standpoint that a personal trainer should never accept such offers from clients. I can imagine that it would be different if you have a client that you've trained regularly for years and years and years; then you've most likely built that kind of a relationship. I haven't reached that point yet, so when clients offer to "hang out" more or less, I simply say something to the effect of "that's very nice of you, we may have to do that one day," leaving the door open. Sometimes I might say, "no, you don't have to do that" or "I appreciate the gesture, but let's focus on you," and then I change the subject.
I think the bottom line is that a professional relationship with a client comes first. If you find yourself uncomfortable with a client, and you can do nothing to resolve that uncomfortable feeling, you should refer the client to another trainer that you think "might be able to give the client better results." I've used that approach a couple of times, and I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by a diverse enough group of fitness professionals that it's often been the case that another trainer IS, in fact, a better match for the client if for no other reason than the fact that my uneasiness comes through in sessions and prevents me from doing my job to the best of my abilities.
All of these answers are great, and there are a lot of ways to look at this situation. The fact that you brought the issue to the table and were willing to accept other opinions, I think, says that you have a good head on your shoulders and you'll figure out exactly what to do!
Good luck, Danny