Question #17: What if clients don’t listen to cues?

This is a great question, and one that troubles every teacher everywhere. Sometimes teaching a class feels like a game of broken telephone.

One scenario is that the client hears your instruction but does something else. For example, you ask them to straighten their knee and they bend it, no matter how many times we repeat the cue. The way we interpret messages is called auditory processing, and sometimes people hear different words than we say or interpret their meaning differently than we intend. A simple way to address this is to draw their visual, not just auditory attention to your knee in this example, point at the joint then straighten it as you give the instruction. Visual cues, like mirroring or mimicking are very effective for keeping your clients attention and helping them stay on track in a class.

Most often the disconnect is a result of external or internal distractions. In the case of a group class, when you ask people for example to change their springs on the Reformer, you may repeat the setting a number of times yet still people ask what springs you want or put on the wrong springs. Why? Think about all the noise and movement that is going on around the room at this time. People will be multi-tasking to come up to sitting, look around, listen to the noise, and then try to listen to you. That’s a lot happening all at once. A simple solution: ask people to come up to sitting and face their springs, stop. Once all eyes are on you, then give the spring setting instruction. Voila!

Finally, take note of the time of day your class is offered. Is it at the end of a busy workday, or before a meal time? Your clients may be full of internal distractions like mental to-do lists or a growling tummy. Giving clients complex (multi-limb coordination) movements that excite the brain’s cerebellum will help keep attention, while also giving the mind something else to think about other than work, kids, and what’s for dinner.

Do you have a question related to your teaching or movement practice? Send it to to be featured in a future Ask Holly.

Written by
Holly Wallis, Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist, PMA®-CPT
Director of US Operations, Body Harmonics Pilates & Movement Institute
Studio Director, ReActive Movement, 6200 LaSalle Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

© Movement Monthly 2019. All rights reserved.

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