From a Negative to a Positive

One-day back in 1999 (my first year of owning my massage business), in walked an elderly gentleman. He didn’t look happy to be getting a massage. The first words out of his mouth were “My wife scheduled me for this massage, and I don’t want to be here.” He never received a massage before, and he seemed uncomfortable. I tried to change the subject, and asked him to fill out a health form. I then proceeded to ask him if he had any hobbies (People usually light-up when they talk about their passions). He said woodworking, of which I knew nothing about.

Portrait of aged teacher looking at camera with blackboard on background

After he’s done filling out the form, I looked it over and started asking him some questions. His wife booked him the massage appointment, because she was sick of him complaining about his back pain. I asked him about his arthritis, and he stated “I don’t have it much anymore in my fingers. I broke my fingers to take away the pain, and it helped.” As you are imagining, I had a shocked look on my face! He complained that a few months ago, his doctor put him on rat poison (That is what he called his blood thinners).

I explained to him what the massage process. He immediately stopped me when I told him he could undress to his comfort level. He said, “Why do you need my clothes off, when I only have lower back pain?” I let him know that sometimes the gluteal region can refer pain to the lower back, but he only took off his shirt (I was ok with that).

He did not speak at all during the treatment, and luckily it was only ½ an hour. I was emotionally drained after the massage. I wished that he would not book another appointment, and he didn’t.

A few weeks have passed, and I get a call from his wife. She wanted to book another massage for her husband. She said, he didn’t complain much about his back pain, after he saw me. I had mixed emotions. Should I deal with the negativity, again?

After a few days, he came in for his massage appointment. Now that I knew his personality, I tried some humor. I asked him is he still on his rat poison? He actually laughed! During the massage treatment he started to open up. I didn’t feel like he was sucking up my energy.

This is what I learned from this gentleman:

  • I learned a hard lesson not to take things so personally. I also incorporated more humor (when necessary), into conversations.
  • Every single client is going to have good days, and bad ones.
  • Always look at the brighter side, and not to feed into their emotions.
  • The more scenarios you run into, the easier it will be in the future to deal with them.
  • In massage school, you only learn a part of what you need in the real world. It’s a good start; so stay awake during your ethics course.
  • If a client doesn’t like you, or you couldn’t help them, they won’t come back. Just don’t take it personally

So, the next time you have a negative client come in, just remember it’s probably not you!

Ryan Hoyme is the owner of and






2 thoughts on “From a Negative to a Positive

  1. This story shares a valuable lesson. I enjoyed it very much. You’re a goodwill ambassador for massage therapists everywhere.

    Jeanie Glass, LMT

  2. Great lessons learned, and shared. I’m guessing he may have been really uncomfortable, nervous, and/or skeptical, maybe even angry with his wife for “making” him see you. Yet, he showed up, and being who you are, met him where he is at. Even though it was draining for you, you were able to then step back and assess what your role was in that.

    I think a primary reason that I have been able to maintain my career for 30 years is that I learned very early on (through working with a particular client over many weeks) not to take things personally, and that I am not the healer, I do not believe I am responsible for others’ healing. I believe they are. Thankfully, I got very clear so early on what my role actually is.

    Not “pushing” him to remove more clothing, sensing you could joke with him at the second visit about the rat poison, then witnessing him opening up…wow. Really points, at least in part, to your professionalism and ability to listen and learn. I appreciate colleagues who strive for such excellence.

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