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We did it as a team: How to look after the 'steady' client type. DISC [article] 4

DISC behavioural styles are being used to help trainers manage clients more in line with their wishes. This article explores the 'dos and don'ts' of managing the 'steady' style of client.

Let’s take a closer look at the ‘Steady’ DISC behavioural style.  I’m going to introduce you to my absolute favourite client of all time, Sophie.


About Sophie

The first time I met my new client Mandy, her mum Sophie came along for moral support. Mandy was only fourteen, and was pretty nervous about starting at the gym, but nowhere near as nervous as her mum seemed to be!  After a gentle and reassuring screening session (reassuring Sophie that is!), I began training Mandy twice per week.


Every time Mandy came in to train, Sophie would sit patiently down in the reception area reading her book for the duration of the session. I would make sure that I spent some time chatting with her at the start and end of Mandy’s session, as she seemed very uncomfortable in a gym environment.  She would sit in the corner with closed body language, shoulders hunched and head down. She was very softly spoken, quite timid, and seemed to be trying to make herself invisible as she sat there.


A couple of times I gently asked Sophie if she had ever considered joining the gym herself. Her reaction was one of horror, and she would immediately dismiss the idea.


You may have already guessed that Sophie was a very high S - she was caring, patient, and always considerate towards others. She soon became almost a surrogate mother to me, fussing over me, wanting to know how I was and if there was anything she could do to look after me.  Fortunately this began to include baking for me every other week!


Over the course of the first year I could see that both Mandy and Sophie began to trust me, and feel safe in the gym.  Safety is hugely important to an S, and I knew it was imperative not to try and rush Sophie into starting any kind of exercise herself, even though I was itching to get her going! I found the fact that she sat in the reception area for almost two hours every week hugely frustrating - it seemed like such a waste of a perfectly good opportunity to work out!


After a year (a whole year!) of sitting quietly in the café, the day finally came when Sophie tentatively broached the subject of beginning her own exercise program.


“I have a question for you” she practically whispered. “You can say no if you want, it’s probably a stupid idea, but I’ve been thinking…. Do you think that maybe I could have a go at exercising? Would you be willing to take me on as one of your clients? Please feel free to say no, I know it’s a silly idea…”


I sat down with her and smiled warmly. “I think it’s a brilliant idea. If you feel ready, I would love the opportunity to train you”


Inside I was jumping up and down and screaming with elation, but I calmly retrieved my diary, made a time for our initial consultation, and outlined with Sophie exactly what would happen in our first few sessions.


Sophie’s Strengths

Once we got started, Sophie was very consistent, well prepared and early for every session. As long as she was comfortable with what we were doing she would follow her program diligently, and was genuinely excited when she could increase the level on any of the machines. She loved structure and routine, and liked to know what was coming up in our sessions. She was very even tempered, always in a caring, cheerful mood, and I very rarely heard her complain - unless she was joking about how mean I was to her! 


Sophie’s Weaknesses:

S’s can be very resistant to change, so anything new that I wanted to add into our program had to be proposed about four weeks in advance!  I then had to constantly reassure her that I would make the exercise as easy as possible, that we would try it in a discreet corner of the gym where no one could see, and that she could just let me know if she didn’t like it and wanted to stop. However, once we started something, as S’s don’t like to rock the boat or offend people, there was always the chance that Sophie wouldn’t say if she didn’t actually like what we were doing!


S’s can also be over-sensitive, and any ‘constructive criticism’ offered would always be over-analysed and then taken in the most negative way possible. When giving Sophie feedback I had to focus on the ‘commend, recommend, commend’, making sure it was genuine, and it always helped to point out that ‘everybody’ had trouble with this one.


For example:

“That’s great technique Sophie – your tempo and your breathing rate is excellent (commend). In our next set, let’s just try and relax our shoulders (we’re a team – they are ‘our shoulders’) – most people find this exercise a bit tough to get right the first time through (reassure). You actually lifted a bit more than most beginners would, so well done!” (commend)


S’s make fantastic clients, they are steady, loyal and consistent.  After leaving the gym, I kept in touch with Sophie, and, as we are a team, I felt it’s only fair that she gets the final word in this article. Below is Sophie’s description of how she felt starting out at the gym.


Sophie’s Side of the Story:

“When I started at the gym at the age of 50, I was so nervous because it was a totally alien environment. I pictured it being full of tooth-pick thin people in bright pink lycra, who would despise and sneer at me, and I just knew that all those strange pieces of equipment were waiting to make me look stupid and probably to hurt me.

Fortunately, I had the most fantastic personal trainer, who gave me constant reassurance and took everything in very small steps. She started with the least threatening equipment and told me repeatedly how well I was doing - I really needed the positive reinforcement.

I really valued the friendliness of all the gym staff, which made me feel as if I did actually belong.

It was quite astonishing how quickly I realised that the other members were preoccupied with their own activities and were not watching me. Although even now I stress to all my trainers that I do not do anything with an LSF - a "Looking Silly Factor!”