WAIT = Why Am I Talking?

September 15, 2015  |  4 comments

In 8th grade, I opened my big mouth one time too many and had to write 100 times on the chalkboard:

It is better to be silent and thought a fool

than to speak and remove all doubt.

-Abe Lincoln

Since I know I can be chatty, I’m careful to limit off-topic conversation with clients. If a client starts a conversation, I’ll listen, acknowledge, and engage only minimally. It’s too easy to get caught up in chatting if a massage therapist allows that to happen.

In a bodywork treatment, I prefer to keep conversation minimal and relevant. A seemingly harmless comment might remind a client of an unpleasant experience or trigger self-consciousness that takes the client out of bodywork and into unwelcome thoughts and feelings.

Recently a psychotherapist reminded me of an acronym that helps me focus on therapeutically conducive conversation:

WAIT = Why Am I Talking?

Recently, I went as a client to an MT for the first time. It was one of the worst massage experiences I can remember. The bodywork was good. But the therapist’s verbiage kept me from enjoying the work. I tried to book a second appointment, hoping we could have a do-over. But that was not to be.

Remembering what happened in that unpleasant session inspires me to WAIT with my clients. Let’s consider some categories of conversation that can occur in the treatment room. I’ll state the category, an example of how I’ve communicated with clients, and what this MT said to me.

  • Reviewing a Client’s Medical History

SHERYL TO CLIENT:  “You mentioned asthma on your form. Is there anything here that might trigger it? Do you carry an inhaler just in case?”

MT TO ME (commenting on my ocular rosacea, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and cysts in my eyes):  “If you want, I can teach you an eye meditation. It improved my vision so much that I passed an eye test without my glasses.”

  • Commenting on a Client’s Appearance

SHERYL TO CLIENT:  “Your arms and shoulders look red. Are they sunburned or sensitive to touch?”

MT TO ME:  “Your skin looks so good, not like most Vermont skin. Are you still vegan?  I’ve noticed vegetarians’ skin is better.”

MT TO ME:  “Your hair is beautiful. Have you considered donating to Locks of Love?”  (When I said they turned it down because I have too many split ends) “That comes from the nervous system.”

  • Commenting on a Client’s Requests

SHERYL TO CLIENT:  “Got it, you don’t want me to touch your face.  I will avoid the face.”

MT TO ME (commenting on a request I made not to press into a sensitive area of my arms):  “That’s the technique we learned in school. I went to one of the best schools on the East Coast. I’m not new at this. I’ve been doing this ten years. I’ve never heard anyone mention that before.”

  • Accepting a Client’s “No”


MT TO ME:  I guess that’s a ‘no’.”  (And later when I said yes to something this MT suggested) “Finally, one of my offerings is accepted!”

  • Honoring Time-Boundaries

SHERYL TO CLIENT:  “You asked to be getting up off the table by 6 p.m. It’s now 5:55. I’l step out and let you take your time getting dressed.”

MT TO ME:  “Oops! I lost track of the time. You said you had to get up by 11 and it’s 11:15. I know you’ll make your meeting on time.” (I scooted into the board meeting I was chairing with three minutes to spare.)

  • Acknowledging Mistakes

SHERYL TO CLIENT:  “I apologize.”

MT TO ME:  “Don’t be mad at me!”

I shared the session above for its sheer volume of distracting communications. It’s important for clients to know that even longtime massage therapists are vulnerable clients at times.

I am certain I don’t WAIT every time I should. I imagine I have said things in bodywork sessions that distracted my clients from the work. I understand it is only a matter of time before I am sent back to the board to quote:

It is better to be silent and thought a fool

Than to speak and remove all doubt.

-Abe Lincoln

One hundred times aren’t nearly enough.