Taking Us Seriously

Why do I continually encounter people who don’t take my profession seriously? Or who like to make a joke of it?

  • “Are you still doing that massage thing?” – like it’s a passing phase in our life.
  • “Dude, check her out!” – conventioneers elbowing each other as my massage therapist is doing chair massage (and I’ve heard much worse).
  • “Oh that’s nice…” – then the business person at the Chamber of Commerce event scans past me for a more “serious” business owner to talk with.
  • “You need to click the link ‘Misc. Licenses’ (which includes dog licenses)” – when inquiring with a city clerk how to find massage licensing requirements in her city.

I had a conversation with a client recently about this. I told her that I often don’t mention that I’m a massage therapist when I meet new people, unless I have some reason to believe that I can really help the person, or feel comfortable that my occupation will be received seriously. She surprised me, saying that when she refers to me in conversation with new acquaintances, she now calls me her friend, not her massage therapist, to avoid raised eyebrows, innuendos or smirks. She does refer others to me but only if she thinks she’ll avoid those reactions.

I still hear occasional off-color jokes or inferences about massage from those who think of us as masseuses working in parlors, but I’ll save some space on a future blog for this topic. If they are a person I’m trying to build or maintain a relationship with, I’ll put on my serious face and give them a bit of an education. If they’re just a jerk, I just change the topic or excuse myself from the conversation.

Maybe I’m a little like the Budweiser delivery driver who told me he’s sick of hearing the same old line every day as he carts his cases into a store, “Hey buddy, you can drop one of those into my trunk here!” “Oh yeah! Maybe next time! Hahahaha!” he replies while inwardly cursing at having to respond to that tired joke day after day.

I should probably be an evangelist for massage 24/7. I really love giving and teaching massage. But I’m tired of these reactions I often get. Why? And how can I (and you) regain a little more of that “on-fire-for-massage” attitude that we had in our early years of massage?

  • Perhaps some are uncomfortable with the thought of discussing such an “intimate” topic. Solution: keep the conversation professional, emphasizing the therapeutic benefits. Give real life examples of how you’ve helped people with back pain, headaches or other conditions.
  • Massage may be perceived as a luxury, something only the wealthy or those who like to pamper themselves do. Solution: Site evidence of the benefits of massage and how it may reduce other health care expenses. I also tell people that my clients represent a wide cross section of local residents, and how some are able to use their HSA or insurance to cover the cost.
  • The continued presence of illegitimate massage establishments linked with prostitution and human trafficking certainly doesn’t help our professional reputations. These make for easy lead-ins for jokes by those not educated about therapeutic massage. Solution: Agree that there are always a few establishments masquerading as “massage therapy”, but the clear majority of massage therapists take a lot of pride in providing therapeutic massage for people who are stressed out or in pain. Look them in the eye and make it clear that you’re proud of the benefits you provide and that you don’t appreciate being lumped in with a few bad characters.

We’re still a relatively new wellness profession in the US. While practitioners of various forms and applications of massage have existed since the 1800’s, it’s only been since the 1970’s and 80’s that massage for therapeutic and relaxation purposes has begun to gain acceptance with the broader public. Acceptance has still grown slowly, as only 18% of Americans had a massage at least once between July 2014 and July 2015, according to a recent AMTA consumer survey.

I think I’ll begin this week presenting myself as Dale Wheeler, massage therapist. Join me, and let’s see what happens!

2018-01-24T13:36:08+00:00November 17th, 2016|