Wow – that’s pretty awkward. I guess I would sit down with them & find out exactly what it is that they don’t like. If it’s something that I could change, like running the session more like a Drill Sergeant (or less of one) then I would try to adapt. But if it’s just me being me & that’s their problem, then I would probably suggest that they find someone else more suitable for them.
You select your clients as much as they should be selective in hiring you. If someone doesn’t gel with you and it’s not something that can easily be remedied to continue the training relationship, I agree with Paul, recommend them to a trainer that may be a better fit. Not everyone will work well together. At least you are asking for help :), that is something to be said for character.
The trainer-client relationship is a rather unique and complex one. It’s true that that we are to serve our clients with the utmost professionalism. However, there are lines and boundaries that can’t and shouldn’t be crossed. Here are my helpful tips in handling this matter:
1) Examine yourself first. How do you approach training sessions? Do you bring low energy? Are you upbeat and positive? Body language is so easy to pick on. A client will notice if his or her trainer is not enthused during training sessions and can be left discouraged and uninspired. If you have family and/or personal matters affecting your energy at the gym, I’d suggest you take a few days off to clear your head. One of the hardest part of our job is maintaining a positive attitude at all times during training sessions.
2) Examine the client. Having to adjust to different client personalities can be a very daunting task. Is the client always moody? Is he/she bipolar or even suffering from depression? Fortunately for me, I’ve only had 2 of such clients in my 10-year career. It turned out that one was on anti-depressants which caused severe mood swings. Luckily we were able to fix it and get her completely off her meds. I was forced to fire the other one after several attempts to make it work.
3). This brings me to my final point. If after these examinations, the client continues to be negative, you may have to let him/her go or refer to another trainer. Not every client will get along with you. Remember that as professional as we all are, we shouldn’t compromise our integrities and dignities at the expense of making money or making someone happy.
Hope this helps!
Do you know the exact nature of the complaint?
Honest, constructive, criticism is a gift. I’d rather have a client complain and then have the opportunity to consider their feedback than a client stop coming or have a defensive relationship with me but not tell me why.
After you know the exact issue, you can decide whether it’s something you can change, and if it’s something you’re willing to change. There are some aspects of my teaching persona that are non-negotiable, even though I could change them. They’re what make me, me. Don'[t be afraid to be who you are and refer clients to others where necessary.