5 Tips to Practice Active Listening with Your Nutrition Clients

Active listening is about more than just sitting still and waiting for your nutrition clients to finish speaking before offering advice. It’s a concept that promotes increased understanding and a more advanced level of communication during your sessions.

However, developing good active listening skills takes practice and mindfulness. It can be one of the most important skills when working with nutrition clients one on one, and one of the hardest skills for many people to learn.

Keep reading for five active listening tips that can elevate your client communication skills…

Listen to what they have to say and confirm your understanding.

Far too many people spend more time waiting for their turn to talk instead of truly listening to what the other person has to say.

This is a poor communication habit, and one that you’ll need to break to effectively work with nutrition clients.

Always ask open ended questions that allow the client to share information freely. Then, when there’s a pause in conversation, summarise what they’ve said and repeat it back to them.

Doing so will confirm your understanding and lets the client know that you’ve really listened to what they’ve said.

Effective communication starts with understanding what the other person is trying to share.

Body language is important – even during remote meetings.

Right now, communication as we know it has changed. Social distancing means that many nutrition professionals are helping clients remotely via online meetings.

Body language can say more than words sometimes, and it’s important not to neglect it just because you’re doing a video call instead of a face-to-face session.

Always make eye contact, keep fidgeting to a minimum, and eliminate distractions as much as possible.

When in person, make sure that you hold an attentive posture and confirm statements by nodding or replying in the affirmative. You should also pay attention to the posture, arm placement, eye movement, and behaviours of your client.

This may be more difficult when meeting online, but you can still watch for cues that mean your client is uncomfortable or having a strong emotional response to the subject being discussed.

Learning to read these cues can improve your understanding of your client and help them reach their goals during your sessions.

Don’t interrupt the flow of conversation to voice your opinion.

One of the worst things you can do is to interrupt someone while they’re trying to communicate with you.

Not only is cutting someone off a sign of disrespect, it can also make them feel like they can’t share things with you in the future.

Always wait for a natural break in conversation, then paraphrase their point to confirm understanding before offering advice or feedback.

Don’t make the conversation about you.

It’s a natural habit to try and relate to people through your own experiences.

However, constantly inserting your personal stories as a yardstick against what your clients are saying invalidates their experiences and makes it about you – when it should be about them.

You don’t want to create a comparison scenario where the person feels that they are competing with your version of their situation. Everyone is different and deserves to have their experiences acknowledged.

Provide your nutrition clients with objective feedback.

Being objective means suspending your personal biases to offer feedback that’s based in fact and relevant to your client’s concerns.

As a nutrition professional, you should base your feedback in science, and true science will always be objective. Don’t allow your opinions to colour your advice or to influence client choices – especially when it’s based on a feeling rather than a scientific fact.

It’s like telling your client, “I choked on a cherry pit once, so cherries should always be avoided!”

That’s a statement that reflects a preference, but not an actual advisable fact.

Ready to practice your active listening skills with more nutrition clients?

The Health Sciences Academy is here to help you grow your nutrition business and to start working (and practicing your active listening) with a diverse range of clients.

Click here to learn more about our Nutrition Business Explorer Program, and to check out the many certification paths open to you!

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