// Think, Feel, Know: better communication for better client results

Awareness of which ‘space’ your client is in could help you train them more successfully and consolidate longer-term relationships, as Glenda Thompson explains.

On my way to an appointment I spotted a discount white goods shop. I needed a clothes dryer and I stopped, judging I’d be able to duck in, buy one and continue on my way. The salesman heard the word ‘dryer’ and immediately commenced a spiel detailing the wattage, the energy rating and the settings of each dryer, starting, naturally, with the largest, most complex and most expensive machines. ‘Look’, I interrupted, ‘I’m after something medium-sized that’s simple to operate and looks OK’. He repeated his data download about the next machine on the aisle. I wasted ten minutes and left frustrated and empty-handed.

As it happened, I made it through the next ten months without a dryer at all, and when I eventually bought one, it wasn’t from that store. The salesman, by communicating his way and not mine, lost a sale (though he did unwittingly help the environment).

During this encounter it was like the salesman and I were speaking two different languages. The exchange was a perfect example of the ‘Think Feel Know’ communication concept: he was deeply in a ‘Think’ space – numbers, data, going sequentially through the evidence from A to Z. Presumably this was his preferred way of operating, and it might have been exactly what a customer who was also processing in ‘Think‘ mode would have wanted. But I was in ‘Know’ – needing simple answers and wanting a swift decision. A salesman more aware of the Think Feel Know concept could have adjusted to my style and made the deal – it was there to be done.

How often have you felt that you’ve not gelled with your client – that you’re on a different wavelength and haven’t been able to really deliver what they were after? Now consider how helpful it would be to know what ‘space’ your client is in when they come to train with you. How great would it be to have a framework to communicate better with every person you interact with?

It is obvious from our day-to-day dealings with people that we all process information differently. The framework which gives an indication of the way people take in information, process it, learn, speak and act is called Think Feel Know. These styles are not linked to gender or occupation; everybody does all three, but we do each have a favourite way of operating, and a second favourite.

The trainer’s space

Do you always train clients in the same way? Understanding our own preferences helps us communicate better with others, so let’s take a look at the different styles you may adopt when training clients.

Thinking: When you train in your Thinking mode you might give a client the physiology of what they’re doing and the anatomy behind the exercise. You might outline how the time will be divided up in the session and how many reps you’re going for.

Feeling: If you train in a Feeling space, you might use music, you might feel the need to connect with the surroundings energetically, and you might tell your client stories about the exercises they’re doing.

Knowing: If you train in a Knowing space, you will keep it simple, giving the ‘bottom line’ and then allowing the client lots of headspace in the session. You will avoid vocal ‘clutter’ and let them get on with things, perhaps occasionally correcting their technique.

The client’s space

Once you have recognised your dominant style, you need to consider that your client will be in a processing space too – and quite possibly a different one from yours. So, how can you tell?

Thinking: A client in a Thinking space might ask to see their program in detail, such as in a grid format, to understand what’s going to be covered before they start. They may be after the science of the movements and may be keen on data: ‘I can do 12 reps but would like to work up to 30.’ They appreciate an analytical system.

Feeling: A Feeling client might want to ‘feel’ the space that they are working in and say something like ‘I just can’t be inside today.’ They might have a story about their program: 'By our wedding day, my fiance wants me to have a six-pack like I had when I was 19!’

Knowing: A client in a Knowing space might want to understand the reason for tackling a particular exercise, but once they’ve received that, will want to get stuck into it with determination. They will enjoy peace and calm.

Your space or mine?

In order to create a strong bond with your clients and deliver them the most effective workout possible, you need to be aware of what space they’re in. Remember that your own preferred space might not be the best match for them; if you can adjust your training style to match their space, it will lead to a greater connection between you and your client. In turn, this will result in a longer-term relationship, meaning healthier clients and a healthier business.

Of course everyone moves from space to space during the day; as we cross a road we will go into a Thinking space because we have to look left and right. We can’t ‘Feel’ that it is safe to cross and neither can we close our eyes and ‘Know’. Likewise, your client’s space is not constant either. Just because they presented in Knowing in last week’s session, doesn’t mean they will be in the same space today.

If you do group or boot camp-style training, it is worth considering covering all three spaces in the course of the session. Those with more extensive experience of working with people may tend to do this automatically, but regardless of how familiar we are with the practice, having a simple concept to explain it makes it easier to learn and to apply.

It is worth remembering that no single space is better than another – however much we might initially think ‘ours’ is superior. Respect is enhanced with the awareness that others process information differently. In fact, a team environment will benefit greatly from having a balance of styles which bring a broad range of skills to the table.

Bear the Think Feel Know concept in mind during your next training session, and gauge whether adapting your training style to suit your client’s space could benefit you both.


Glenda Thompson
Glenda is an owner and communications coach with Think Feel Know Australia. Think Feel Know is a global business dedicated to supporting its clients to reach greater unity and effectiveness. Simple tools are used in a coaching methodology, delivered in one-to-one sessions, workshops, projects and licence sales. For a report on your personal Think Feel Know preferences, take the Indicator test at www.thinkfeelknow.com.

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