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Empathy in the Fitness Space

Over the years there have been several instances where friends and family have reached out to me because they were worried about the health of their loved ones, and were super unsure about how to get their point across without letting worry consume their relationship. Most of us have gone through that, isn’t it? Health of those close to us is something that we often worry about, but it comes with a lot of pressure. It is a sensitive topic, and can be an instant confidence killer if not handled in the right way.

Most of us tend to react aggressively because of the fear that the thought of bad health brings along. “Please go to the gym you are becoming fat”  “oh my god you have gained so much weight ” “you will most definitely get diabetes”  “oh my God what happened to you”…. While these are logical fears that one can have, putting it out there in this manner might get your loved one to suddenly feel defensive.

So here’s the thing- it is human nature to feel that things aren’t so bad, and that the other person is only doing this to make us feel really bad about ourselves. Yes, we do live in varying degrees of denial. Of course this calls for being defensive. So basically by putting your fear out there in an aggressive, almost accusatory tone not only has your loved one pulling up his guard but also might give rise to body image issues.

There is no formula to get this right, your loved ones health will be a cause of concern and there has to be a way to let them know to take care of themselves. As I said there is no one formula that help you handle this, but the one thing that will help you handle this effectively is empathy.

This starts with putting yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if someone accused you of bad health? How would you like it if someone had a negative opinion on your lifestyle and made it known to you at every chance they got? Won’t you be angry too? How would you like them to approach you? I am sure you will get an answer, and that is how you need to approach your loved one. Seriously it is this simple if only you pause to reflect.

Asking someone to join the gym because they have gained weight will do nothing but create a rift between the two of you. Instead, gradually, in a very gentle manner you explain that you are worried about them. Explain the cause of your concern. Then get into the technicalities of what you are thinking – by this I mean technical details about how weight gain leads to diabetes or how eating a lot of junk food will lead to clogging of your arteries or drinking too much might result in liver cirrhosis, anything! There is a way to handle it, and empathy is the answer to all those doubts that you had.

It’s human nature to worry. It’s also human nature to understand, but only if we are given a reason for our whys. If you explain that you genuinely care and are hence worried, there is a chance that they will understand you and realise the danger themselves.

Motivate. inspire. Use positive words. Encourage your loved ones to keep going on. Phrases like “this is not how you do it”” you don’t know how to do it” “you don’t get anything right” come across as demeaning, not something you want to say to someone you are genuinely worried about.

I know this might come across as really vague information to you, but you will learn the power of empathy if you practice it slowly, in tiny bits everyday and in every aspect of your life.

I chose to write about this topic only because it is a common occurrence in the fitness space where more often than not the worry is overlooked and is misinterpreted as rudeness and takes a hit on self-confidence.

Point being, handle it with care. Express the cause of your concern and keep motivating your loved ones, and work towards building a stronger, healthier community all together.

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