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How to Not Allow Participant's Opinions to Get to You

As Fitness instructors, we are caring individuals. We generally become fitness instructors to help others. As caring people, we put value on people's opinions - positive and negative and often the negative opinions can wear us out over time (if we are not careful); especially new instructors.
As an instructor for the past 18 years, this is something I personally struggled with as a self diagnosed "People Pleaser." I always want my riders to enjoy their workout, so when a negative opinion would smack me in the face, it used to really hurt, but thankfully I have learned how to let go of those opinions.
I remember one instance in particular during a classi was teaching, the rider put their hands on their ears and yelled out, "your music is awful and way too loud!" I remember getting into my car and crying my heart out. It wasn't until the next day that a participant from the class came to me and said, "I love your music and so does the rest of the class and that lady is always miserable." At that point, I had only been teaching for 2 years, but I learned a valuable lesson - someone's opinion of me or my classes is none of my business.
Over the years I have learned to stop giving power to the "Negative Nelly's" (as I refer to them). These are the type of people which voice their opinions about everything from your choice of music, your style of teaching, the volume of your music, the drills you choose, to what temperature the room is, and the list goes on. The really terrible ones are the people that compare you to other instructors, like it's a competition or something?
No matter what, the bottom line is they are unhappy as people in general or what is known as high C's (Get It Right Personalities).
The tragic mistake us people pleasers make is we accommodate them, and no matter what we do, they will never be happy in your class.
Today, I wanted to help instructors who are facing this battle and hopefully you can find a way to teach your classes and enjoy the people who love the energy you put into creating a fun workout for them.
Here are some tools that helped me get past those feelings and enjoy teaching even more...
1. Focus on the positive energy participants. When you give focus to the Negative Nelly's, you give them all the power you have. They are energy suckers. Instead, give all your energy to the people who make your classes fun and enjoyable.
2. When you receive an opinion there is a few things you can say back to let them feel heard but gives you some power in the conversation versus being offended:
  • "Thank you for sharing your opinion, I will take it into account."
  • "Out of curiosity, why do you feel that will be beneficial to the class?" This allows them to think about the class as a whole instead of themselves and you are countering their opinion with curiosity.
  • "What do you suggest?" If they don't like your music, ask them to create a list of song that you could incorporate into the class.
  • "How so?" This really get them because they have to answer what it is that is bothering them
3. Attract the Best Fit for Your Personality. If you are an outgoing energetic person, draw those people in. It's okay if you don't accommodate the people who don't like your classes, they will find someone that matches their personality. As the owner of a fitness studio, I tell new people all the time that if my studio doesn't meet your needs there are lots of other facilities  (I sometimes even refer to other studios).
4. Meet them with Empathy and Compassion: What's really going on? Remember this - you never know what battle someone is facing on the inside. You can simply ask them, "What's on your mind?" It tends to open the door of communication. And when you meet them with empathy and compassion you can turn the entire situation around.
5. Be okay with not winning everyone over! You can't win everyone over so embrace your awesome traits!
6. Did you replace another instructor? Sometimes when we take over instructor's classes, the people who struggle with change don't like the new instructor but it's not because they don't like you as a person, they simply lost someone they really liked. If your new, acknowledge you understand this is a change for the class and for you as the instructor and your always open to feedback. This will help them connect to you and grow to love your classes.
7. Someone's Opinion of You Is None of Your Business - Finally, it's time to take pause and learn that people express opinions based on their fears, experiences, and filters. You don't need to absorb someone's opinion to hear it, simply remember that it is coming from a place of righteousness and often insecurities.
If you have the chance, here is a great article titled "7 Reasons Why Other People's Opinions Don't Matter"
In conclusion, you keep being you! You are a caring person who takes the time to make your classes awesome and keep focusing on the people in your class who appreciate the effort you put into teaching!
Happy Teaching!
Rachel Seay :)