“Weird Moods”

Since I know some of you out there are current or aspiring yoga or pilates teachers, I’m gonna give you a tip for free. (I would imagine this tip would also apply to tai chi instructors, and anyone else teaching a mind/body discipline.)

Here’s the tip: SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUT UUUUUUUUUUP. Especially when working with private students.

I don’t mean you should be so taciturn you can’t communicate what your student or students should be doing. I just mean that’s the communication you should be concerning yourself with–and if you find yourself telling stories about your Ren Faire days or your upcoming wedding or your child’s orthodontist appointment or that time you road-tripped to the Grand Canyon, you need to SHUT THE FUCK UP. That whole mind/body thing means your students are trying to focus on their breathing and stay centered, which is impossible when YOU WON’T STOP YAMMERING.

And if you ever, ever hear yourself say, “Ha ha, I’m sorry, I’m just in a weird mood”? That is a clear signal that you need to reel it the hell in. If you know you’re acting like an idiot and can tell it’s bothering your student(s)? You don’t need to giggle and apologize for being “weird.” You need to SHUT THE FUCK UP.

I’m not sure how this doesn’t come up in teacher training, but it must not, ’cause I’ve now had it happen with two different teachers in private lessons–one yoga, one pilates. Both pulled the “weird mood” thing after jabbering in such a way as to make me seriously wonder if they were manic, not just clueless about how much it was irritating me. And the problem with the “weird mood” thing is that it means the only polite response is for me to giggle as well and say it’s okay, when IT IS NOT OKAY.

Connecting breath to movement, isolating specific muscles and remembering where all the other muscles should be in the meantime, and trying to stay relaxed while doing all of the above are not things that come easily in the face of huge distractions. And talking to a student like you’re having fucking coffee together is a HUGE DISTRACTION. I do not pay my girlfriends a dollar a minute or more to hang out with me. I pay teachers that much because I want them to TEACH ME THINGS and then SHUT UP while I try them out. If I’m in a mood for chatting, I have friends who will show up for free and TELL BETTER STORIES.

Okay, breathing… Ahem. I don’t know, maybe there are students who actually work better with someone talking at them, the way I can actually listen better if I’m simultaneously doodling. But I am the kind of person who can’t stand to be talked at–I feel compelled to respond, which means I need to find an exhale and get the entire response out in like 4 seconds. That doesn’t work so well. And here’s what I do know: one of the teachers I’m bitching about right now actually told me once that she’d had this great revelation about how I was one of those people who work better while being talked at. She’d noticed that I seemed to hold poses longer when she kept chatting. YES, THAT’S BECAUSE YOU DON’T REALIZE HOW LONG YOU’VE BEEN TALKING AND TELL ME TO COME OUT OF THE FUCKING POSE WHEN YOU ORDINARILY WOULD. She actually sat there and told me she’d made this important observation about the way I worked, even though she’d utterly failed to observe that every time she launched into one of her monologues, steam started coming out my friggin’ ears. Which put me in the position of choosing between saying, “You know, actually, I don’t like it when you do that, it’s YOU who likes it”–which would have made both of us tremendously uncomfortable–and going, “Ha ha, yeah,” while fantasizing about duct-taping her mouth shut.

And that’s kind of the whole problem. Even though I know enough to come out of a pose or stop doing something when I’m actually in pain, I’m enough of a keener that I’m really reticent to question the teacher’s authority. The teacher/student relationship is not an equal one, even if you’re around the same age and have pleasant chats before and after class. It is a relationship in which one person tells the other what to do with her body, and the second person humbly obeys in most cases. That can be one fucked-up power dynamic if you’re not totally professional about it. And that’s exactly why I sit at home getting ALL CAPPY about this on my blog, instead of asking the teachers to yammer less in the moment. I don’t want to embarrass my teacher and throw her off her game, much less get angry in the middle of a session I’m paying a bundle for–which is a real risk, given how much the yammering DRIVES ME UP A WALL. So instead, I swallow it, and eventually just find a new teacher. I’m sure there’s a more mature and effective way to handle it, but that’s all I’m comfortable doing.

And the sucky thing is, both of these people are technically excellent teachers. But I cannot get the full benefit of their expertise when I’m spending the whole session thinking, “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY SHUT UP.”

Most teachers worth their salt will agree to a strict prohibition on sleeping with students, because of the aforementioned power dynamic. But I’m really starting to think there need to be similar prohibitions on getting too friendly with students, just as there are for therapists and their clients. If a teacher and student really hit it off and want to be friends, that’s great–but the student should get a new teacher, and they should pursue the friendship on their own time. Especially if you’re teaching or taking private lessons, there’s not only a major power imbalance but an intense intimacy in the work itself–which means focusing on anything but the work itself is asking for trouble. Not affair-gone-wrong trouble, granted, but it can set the student up to feel really uncomfortable and yet too vulnerable to say anything about it.

What do you think, Shapelings? Have you had good experiences with excessively “friendly” instructors? Does teacher-chattiness make you more comfortable? For those of you who are teachers, do some students seem to respond better when you talk about things other than what you’re teaching? (And is this kind of thing addressed during teacher training?) I mean, I’m totally willing to entertain the possibility that it’s just me here. But then, even if it is, all that tells you is something that should be the bedrock of any mind/body exercise teaching philosophy: it’s really important to read students correctly and meet them where they are. If there are students who can somehow concentrate better while you chatter away about your mother-in-law, then by all means, keep doing it with those students. But don’t convince yourself that a student who’s giving nothing but fake smiles in response is actually enjoying or benefiting from that shit. When in doubt, ask if the student thinks she’d work better if you stayed quiet between instructions–if either of those teachers had done that, I’d have felt comfortable saying yes, and I might still be working with them.

And for the love of Maude, do not giggle and announce that you’re “just in a weird mood!” You’re in your fucking workplace with a client. It’s your responsibility to remain in a professional mood. I mean, I know these are disciplines that attract freaks and weirdos–I’m one of ‘em–but if you’re making up silly songs while I’m trying to stay focused? YOU’RE NOT BEING “WEIRD,” YOU’RE BEING UNPROFESSIONAL AND OBNOXIOUS.

Whew. That felt good.

79 thoughts on ““Weird Moods”

  1. Any time you’re paying someone, it’s a bad idea to get too friend-y. Hi, I’m paying you to help me work out, not to talk about your relationship problems.
    However, I have to admit the only therapist (of many) who actually did me any good, was one who crossed over the “friend” line, but its a slippery slope. We would never have met outside the therapy office, but she gave me a gift upon graduation and once I bought her a book I knew she’d love. I still think of her; she helped me stay sane (and enrolled in college) during the worst days of my eating disorder.

  2. See, and here I thought I was just anti-social :-) I do have some garrulous friends who like the whole “chatty social” thing from teachers, doctors, etc. So there are people out there that like it. But for me, If I’m paying someone for lessons of any kind, I’m paying for them to teach me the requisite lessons, NOT for a tea party. Just because I’m spending time with them does not mean I want to be their best friend; I’m scrounging money for a time period in which to cram all the instruction I can get so that I can apply it in practice in my free time. If they want to socialize before or after, that’s one thing, but it’s important to seperate “Lesson time” from “Social Time” because the only people who get paid for the latter are escort services.

  3. Actually, what I find very distracting is if the instructor is good looking. This has happened one time I tried Yoga and one time I tried to learn some form of martial arts. LoL, maybe I should consider myself lucky.

  4. If they want to socialize before or after, that’s one thing, but it’s important to seperate “Lesson time” from “Social Time” because the only people who get paid for the latter are escort services.

    Hee!

  5. Actually, I should revise. The teacher (well, coach) that I got friendly with but DIDN’T sleep with, it turned out to be a good experience. Later he turned out to be problematic as a friend, but being friends with him definitely had its benefits in a coach/athlete relationship — he knew how to put me at ease, which was really important, and it just created a good environment at practice (he was friends with pretty much everyone on the team). A little inappropriate, probably, but turned out to be a good motivator. The power dynamic was still there, of course, at least during practice when it was supposed to be, but for me at least, it disappeared outside of practice (there were other people who were kind of in his thrall outside practice as well, but I didn’t have a problem treating him as an equal or even the dumbass he sometimes was outside of the team environment).

    But in that case, the friendship was MUTUAL. I.e. we actually LIKED each other, vs. him just talking and talking and talking.

    My yoga teacher did talk fairly constantly, but he was very funny and, most importantly, was addressing a class and thus didn’t expect responses.

  6. I totally agree with you. When I’m taking an exercise class, it’s about *me*, not the instructor. I need to focus on what I’m doing, which is impossible if he/she is yammering away.

  7. I’ve had both men and women personal trainers/teachers. It’s always been the women who cross over into the “too chatty” territory (not ALL of the women instructors I’ve had, mind you).

    Luckily, I’ve never experienced that problem with any of the flight instructors I’ve had. If I had a flight instructor giggle and tell me “I guess I’m just in a weird mood today!” I would NOT be going up with them.

  8. most importantly, was addressing a class and thus didn’t expect responses.

    Yeah, I think it’s a whole different thing with a full class, where no one student feels like s/he has to pay full attention, let alone respond.

    And I agree that a certain amount of warmth can definitely help put students at ease. There’s just a difference between warmth and INSANE JABBERING.

  9. I feel this way about hairdressers, too. Sure, say hi and ask how I’m doing, but notice those monosyllabic responses? I don’t care what’s going on in your life, and frankly I don’t care that much about what’s going on in my life, so I’d rather not talk about either one. (Tangentially related: people who pester me — at work, at the plasma donation center, everywhere — because they see I’m reading, and obviously if I would turn to a book I must be so ungodly bored I’ll desperately welcome their companionship!)

    My tai chi instructor is very good about not being overly chatty and friendly — it helps that he likes the silence of it and that the particular teaching style requires a lot of doing-without-talking moments. However, he has a tendency to tell the same stories over and over again, which drives me crazy. Yes, I know about the time Jenny blew out her knee trying to imitate a more advanced student. I could do a dramatic recreation of the episode, and I’ve never even freaking met Jenny. Can we move on?

    I also made the mistake of mentioning once that I am a math major, and another time, pointing out that Whip Out Horizontally and Whip Out Diagonally aren’t exactly the same, since one involves a turn of 135 degrees and one a turn of 90 degrees. (I know, so pedantic, but it helped me!) Since then, I’ve had a fairly steady stream of comments from him like “Your foot will be at 22.5 degrees, don’t let me see you sneaking 23 in there” or “Would you like me to get a protractor so you can check your stance?” Yes, I get it, nerd attempts to acheive inner peace. It’s so funny I forgot my mantra.

    Gah.

    This thread does help, though — even my terribly shy best friend gets all excited about telling his barber his life story every time he gets a trim, and I was starting to wonder if I have a moral failing and just really hate people.

  10. I feel this way about hairdressers, too. Sure, say hi and ask how I’m doing, but notice those monosyllabic responses? I don’t care what’s going on in your life, and frankly I don’t care that much about what’s going on in my life, so I’d rather not talk about either one.

    AMEN. And ditto massage therapists–although I’ve never had one who pushed the small talk, fortunately; it’s just the same concept. The whole instant-intimacy thing of a stranger touching your body is weird enough on its own. It doesn’t make me feel better to pretend we’re pals. It makes me feel like I’m at an office cocktail party with neither a cocktail nor a paycheck at stake, and SOMEONE IS TOUCHING MY HEAD.

  11. I get exactly what you are saying and agree.

    A similar thing I run into, in my line of work I provide a lot of professional advice and assistance based on both my education and my experience. It often places me in a teaching or guidance role with them. My style is to try and be accessible and approachable but it’s a professional environment, I’m not there to make small talk. I’m there to help a client solve a problem or learn a technique or accomplish a task.

    I’m happy to do it, and I love my job. But if there’s one thing I wish I could say to my clients it’s: I respect you as a person but I honestly don’t want to hear about your kids, your dog’s vet appointment, your wife’s lack of technical expertise, the fact that your husband farts in his sleep, who all came to your mom’s funeral (even though I do sympathize), where you went on your vacation, or what you thought of the movie you saw last week. I don’t want you to flirt with me, or try to sisterbond with me. I don’t want to add you to my personal Skype list. I don’t want to meet you for coffee when you come to my town to give a seminar. I just want to help you with your goddamn problem in a professional and pleasant manner and get on with my day.

    Gah!

  12. I actually just quit a class because of this problem.

    The instructor never shut up. The class ran for 55 minutes, and a good 10-15 minutes of that was always loss with her gossiping about shit none of us cared about. Once she stood there and ranted about utter rubbish for 25 minutes.

    The sad thing is, it’s the only class of this type in my area so I was disappointed to leave as I rely on public transport and my bike, and so can’t go further afield for a class.

    (And, yes, I’m purposefully not mentioning anything about her or the class because she’s a drama queen, and I’m paranoid that if she ever saw a negative comment about her, she’d never leave me alone. I know the chances of her reading here are slim but THAT’S how much of an annoyance/drama-llama she is.)

  13. I had a personal trainer for a while who would chat with me a lot but I liked it. It distracted me from the pain in my ass/arms etc while I was working out. He was a nice guy (So hot, So tiny, I felt like an amazon.) But I realized we could never be real life friends when he said “Yeah… y’know… I’ve been trying this new thing, I’ve been *reading*’ Seriously… like it was a weird hobby to have.

    Conversely, I have had two VOICE teachers who would chat with me a lot. Which is bad, because 1. I am very chatty and it is easy to get me going, so once they are chatty then I am chatty.And more importantly, 2. You cannot actually SING while TALKING. Crazy stuff. So there were not a few lessons that went by where I sang for less than half of them. Which… really sucks. I try not to think about the money that was wasted.

  14. Kate, you are absolutely right when you talk about the power imbalance of teachers and students getting involved. It is a problem. You’d think it wouldn’t be a such big deal in an environment like a yoga studio, or pilates, or whatever, but the thing is, these are places where our bodies are exposed and that makes it a pretty vulnerable experience for a lot of folks. I like that you put that out there. I’d never thought about it that way, but certainly as a therapist-in-training, we talk a lot about power imbalances and such.

    And really, people yammering on is about them, and their needs, and it’s empathically draining to have to focus on the other person so hard when you are paying them for a serivce that should be about YOU.

  15. Come to think of it, I also talk music with my drawing teacher (the penalty for which is that he now borrows my iPod for class when he forgets his) and race/class/gender with my hooping teacher. And I finally found a hairdresser I actually like talking with, too, so I’ll be going back to her. And I chat with the gym manager. You know what it is? I just don’t really keep doing stuff if the authorities involved are people I can’t talk to. In fact, I’ve walked out of a yoga class before because I couldn’t bear to listen to the inane babble that the teacher was spewing. I basically can’t do any work if I don’t respect the teacher (see also: my problem with grad school). So if I go back to a class or hairdresser, it’s because I feel reasonably friendly or at least well-disposed towards them… which means that them being friendly towards me is not a burden.

  16. I taught my first pilates class last week (no private classes yet), and I did talk a lot…ABOUT THE EXERCISES WE WERE DOING! (Sorry, the caps thing is contagious, I guess.)

    I think you’re absolutely right; be professional. Some clients like the jibber-jabber, but it’s important to keep the focus on the work. If a client isn’t bothered by A LITTLE chit-chat mixed in, fine. But I’m not going to go on and on about my life. That’s what my therapist is for, and I pay her.

  17. This is totally my pet peeve, especially because it invariably has the effect of making me feel anti-social and a poor conversationalist. But I’m not! I just don’t want to be having a conversation at that minute. (I’m actually not a huge fan of making small talk with hairdressers either.)

  18. But if there’s one thing I wish I could say to my clients it’s: I respect you as a person but I honestly don’t want to hear about your kids…

    Great point that it goes both ways, Jo.

    Dear Entire World,

    NO ONE CARES. SHUT UP.

    Love,
    Kate

  19. My figure skating coach and I gossip like crazy.

    OVER EMAIL.

    Btw, I would also like the “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SHUT UP” approach to catch on among massage therapists. I find chatty masseuses even worse than chatty Pilates instructors.

  20. 1. I am very chatty and it is easy to get me going, so once they are chatty then I am chatty.And more importantly, 2. You cannot actually SING while TALKING.

    Totally. 2 is a big problem with what I’m talking about, because you can’t focus on your breath while talking, either–and I really take that seriously in both yoga and pilates.

    Doesn’t explain why I hate chatty hairdressers, though, so maybe I’m just an antisocial bitch.

  21. I’m not a full-time yoga teacher, but I do teach acting, which involves a lot of the mind-body thing you’re talking about (I include some yoga, some feldenkrais, some tai chi, etc., in my classes). And I have to say, you are entirely RIGHT ON in your rant. I say that both as a teacher and as an occasional student. Part of being a good (mindful) teacher of ANYTHING is being aware of and responsive to your students’ different needs. Some people need the chatting to relax, some need the silence. It’s the teacher’s job to figure out which kind of student they’re working with, and sometimes that does mean asking them. The teachers you’re describing sound completely unprofessional, and not a little insecure. (Are they new to private coaching?) Regarding the friend/teacher boundary, again, I think the teacher is the one with the responsibility to make sure things stay safe/appropriate/comfortable for the student(s). In theatre classes, teachers do tend to have closer relationships with their students than in other disciplines, for example (just because of the physical work and the extra time you spend together in rehearsals) but if anything that makes it even MORE important to know where the boundaries are. Same with Yoga/pilates teachers, I should think. So that’s my extremely wordy way of saying YOU ARE RIGHT!!! (And also that, as a teacher, I would really really want to be told if a student was uncomfortable with how I was working with them. Though, ironically, the fact that you’re not comfortable doing so is a great indication that these are bad teachers. It’s a vicious circle!)

  22. Tell her.

    She isn’t going to send you to the prinipal’s office or give you detention or make you hold your poses forever. If she does retaliate, find a new teacher, but at least have the courage to tell her.

    She’s a human being doing a job, not a powerful authority figure who has mastered teaching with a minor in mind reading. She clearly thinks she’s doing a good job and won’t change her mind about it until you tell her, directly.

    You wouldn’t giggle and go along with it if someone was disparaging you for being fat, no matter how cute or polite they thought they were being. This is the same thing. You know it isn’t ok, so say so. You probably aren’t the only one who is annoyed, but you might be the only one who thinks to say something about it.

  23. Slightly different situation, but I work at gallup phone surveys, and you wouldn’t believe how some people yammer on. It’s mostly old men who do this. I feel like I can’t get a word in edgewise, and the surveys are often long as it is. There’s a fast way and a painfully slow way to take surveys, and the latter is chattering about stuff I never asked. I can understand it if you’re very old and obviously haven’t talked to anyone in days, but I really don’t need to hear about your constant stomach problems during the winter war. It’s just a bit too much information.

    Sometimes I hear my colleagues do the reverse – “Oh, you’re from that city? I went there last month… Really nice nature you’ve got there, are the cherry trees in bloom yet? Yada yada..” I can imagine the person in the other end growing more and more restless as the phonecall drones on. I don’t even care about where my coworkers went on holiday, why should the people taking the survey?

  24. You’d think it wouldn’t be a such big deal in an environment like a yoga studio, or pilates, or whatever, but the thing is, these are places where our bodies are exposed and that makes it a pretty vulnerable experience for a lot of folks.

    The thing is, though, with yoga at least, not only is it a teacher-student relationship, it can, for reasons both good and bad, quickly turn into a guru-follower relationship, because of the spiritual element involved. There’s a lot of emotional work in yoga, with the physical practice really being presented (most of the time) as a way to access emotions or emotional/spiritual blocks, so there’s a *lot* of room for exploitation there.

    As for chatty teachers, I once wrote a really scathing email to the owner of a yoga studio saying I would never come back to the studio at all; the instructor not only jabbered insanely (and inanely) the entire time, she kept going on about her private students and how they screwed up poses — basically making fun of students for not being able to follow her instruction (which was not particularly clear, so I can understand why private students, who wouldn’t have other students to look at, would have problems with it). And she was just cracking herself up at the front of the class, DEMONSTRATING the incorrect poses and laughing until she snorted.

    What the fuck?

    The yoga studio owner wrote back a while later saying that a number of people had complained about that instructor and she was no longer working at the studio.

  25. Oh, and, my current yoga teacher talks a lot, but it’s all instructions or teaching stories, not just chatter. She does have weeks where she’ll say that she wants to work on silence a bit more (I mean, for herself) and let us listen to ourselves and our bodies rather than to her, so we do that sometimes, too.

    Silence is hard. I’m working on it now as a therapy student; when I’m sitting in the chair where I’m “supposed” to be leading the session, and there’s just silence, I can totally panic. But I’m learning that most of the time, the silence is necessary for the client to work through something, and I know that in my own therapy, my silence usually didn’t mean boredom or lack of direction or whatever, just that I was thinking through things, and I never felt like the therapist was incompetent for not breaking the silence. But it feels really different on the other side of the (metaphorical) desk, and I can understand why teachers/counselors jump in to fill the silence. They should lean *not* to do that, of course, but it is a skill that needs to be developed for most people.

  26. On the one hand, I also would be annoyed if a teacher constantly chatted about stuff unrelated to the topic of the lesson (or who was too much engaged in showing off his/her own abilities instead of teaching me – I had a belly dance teacher who spent two thirds of the class showing off her dance moves instead of instructing us – it’s okay to demonstrate, but if I want to see a performance I don’t sign up for lessons).
    On the other hand I don’t do well with instructors and particularly with therapists that keep too much of a distance. In fact, the only therapist I ever felt save with was someone who would occasionally (but not excessively) mention her own experiences, thoughts, and feelings and to whom I developed a very personal bond. The trick was that she never made herself the focus during sessions. Sometimes we had small talk when we saw each other in a different context (she was a student counselor at a very small university – so I would run into her occasionally, and we also acted in the same play at some point), but when I came to see her in her role as counselor it always was about the issues I struggled with. Also, one of my piano teachers (who was at that time studying to become a professional pianist himself) used to sometimes play different interpretations of pieces and ask me which one I thought was better. He did it after my lesson, so I did not pay for the time, and it actually motivated me since it gave me the feeling that a) he valued my opinion and b) he probably thought that I had some feeling for music. Since I am German, I also taught him to pronounce “Bach” properly… which actually was a lot of fun :o)

  27. It doesn’t make me feel better to pretend we’re pals. It makes me feel like I’m at an office cocktail party with neither a cocktail nor a paycheck at stake, and SOMEONE IS TOUCHING MY HEAD.

    Laughing. My ass. Off. HEE!

  28. I agree. All professional fitness types need to STFU! I don’t want to hear the whining about their bodies (which 75% seem to do), their children, how many calories are in an M&M, or how they had too many magaritas last night.

    If they talk THAT much, how can they concentrate on MY form or anyone else’s form? I don’t want to hear any feel-good stuff about the true meaning of namaste. Instruction ONLY please!

  29. LilahMorgan: “This is totally my pet peeve, especially because it invariably has the effect of making me feel anti-social and a poor conversationalist. But I’m not! I just don’t want to be having a conversation at that minute. (I’m actually not a huge fan of making small talk with hairdressers either.)”

    EXACTLY (in keeping with the caps lock theme). I’m generally a nice person. However, I hate trying to make small talk with people I don’t know well, and as I tend to schedule things like salon appointments at the ends of work days, I want to sit in the damn chair and relax. Sometimes I want to take a little nap with my head in the shampoo bowl. I don’t want to be forced to make small talk for an hour about reality TV shows that I don’t watch or kids that I don’t have. I’m not paying to be forced out of my shell; I’m paying to have layers cut into my hair.

    My old stylist was great. She was okay with chatter if her clients were chatty, but she was not offended in the least by silence. And when she did chat, it wasn’t generally inane, and she had a good sense of humor. Unfortunately she moved away. My stylist now does a good job, but she’s very chatty. *sigh*

  30. And if you ever, ever hear yourself say, “Ha ha, I’m sorry, I’m just in a weird mood”? That is a clear signal that you need to reel it the hell in. If you know you’re acting like an idiot and can tell it’s bothering your student(s)? You don’t need to giggle and apologize for being “weird.” You need to SHUT THE FUCK UP.

    Wow, that is truly bizarre behavior you are describing for someone who is supposed to, you know, be working with clients on quieting their minds.

  31. I agree with twilight river – my instinct would totally be the same as yours Kate, but the thing is, teachers rarely get honest feedback. If you put it very diplomaticlaly, emphasizing the things you like about her, it could make a big difference. If she reacts hostily, she’s a sucky teacher all around, though even then it might sink in.

    And, I always felt like a bad person for not liking to talk to stylists. Glad I’m not the only one. And for all we know some of them might be relieved for the break.

  32. And if you ever, ever hear yourself say, “Ha ha, I’m sorry, I’m just in a weird mood”? That is a clear signal that you need to reel it the hell in. If you know you’re acting like an idiot and can tell it’s bothering your student(s)? You don’t need to giggle and apologize for being “weird.” You need to SHUT THE FUCK UP.

    Wow, that is truly bizarre behavior you are describing for someone who is supposed to, you know, be working with clients WHO ARE PAYING THEM to help them quiet their minds.. Anecdotes that help illustrate their point are fine — e.g. I don’t mind if my shrink talks about her daughter if it has something to do with what we’re discussing. And if they want to talk about RenFaire or whatnot before or after the class, also fine. But gah, if you’re too fucked in the head to concentrate on teaching that class, call in sick and reschedule the damn thing for when you feel better. That’s one reason I never pursued that line of work myself — I know there’d be too many times I’d be too fucked in the head to do it. It’s a lot to ask of someone that they always be on top of their shit, but they’re not being paid tiny money for it either.

  33. I had one instance where I took aerobics classes with this woman for several months, and one day I was the only student for aerobics so we walked together instead, and that was great. It turned out that besides teaching she was a professional musician and I really enjoyed hearing about her orchestra experiences. Occasionally we’d walk together after that, and there was a real friendship there and I was sorry when she married a dentist and moved away.

    At the swim class I go to now, the chatting is among the participants, who are mostly “regulars.” I love the social time but it does sometimes get in the way when you have to swim around people who are catching up on the latest grandkid updates or whatever, and I’ve seen teachers get annoyed and either deal with it or not.

  34. Every once in a while my yoga instructor or aikido instructor will begin a class by telling everyone that she wants us to concentrate on focus, and so we will be having a completely silent class. Then she proceeds to teach without saying anything for an entire 90 minutes. I absolutely love these classes.

  35. I agree with everyone on the professions listed so far (yoga, massage therapists, hair dressers), but I really like having some kind of rapport with medical professionals I see. It’s easy to feel like a whiner when your knee isn’t responding to treatment and your symptoms are getting weirder and weirder, and having a medical professional who clearly considers you a full human being makes it a lot easier to list this week’s symptoms and theories.

  36. I feel this way about hairdressers, too. Sure, say hi and ask how I’m doing, but notice those monosyllabic responses? I don’t care what’s going on in your life, and frankly I don’t care that much about what’s going on in my life, so I’d rather not talk about either one.

    This was totally true for me for years. It was doubled by the fact that because of my insanely curly and wild hair that is thicker than is probably right for a person’s hair to be, almost all hairdressers would screw up somehow, and I’d end up with bangs-from-hell or it would be too short, or they’d try to texture it even when I’d tell them that that really isn’t going to help things, and so then after all this chatting, they point me to a mirror and I would feel too worn out by the talking to even point out to them that it looks awful, and why didn’t they just trim it like I asked?

    This changed when I turned 14 and my involvement in theatre had me making friends with one of my friend’s mothers – who happened to be a local theatre director and a hair stylist. And she totally got my hair.

    And she and I are chatty when she does my hair, but that makes sense, considering I spent one summer living at her house and she, her daughter and I get together every Wednesday to watch Top Chef. And I spent most of my free time in high school hanging out on her porch.

    So, you know, that’s different.

    Plus, she totally understands my hair and does not butcher it when she cuts it, so that makes me a very happy person.

  37. Chatty. Meditation. Teachers. Need. To. Die.

    Yes, by the time I’ve actually learned how to do more than sit quietly while my ass goes numb I’ll be able to block out marching bands and semi trucks, but in the mean time, SHUT UP! I can’t learn to focus on my breathing if you keep talking, even if it’s in a soothing voice.

    Oh, and the hairdresser thing is always un-fun. Especially if they’re talking to me while washing my hair. She’s touching me, her boobs are in my face, and now she’s giving me personal information. It would be kinky if I were on a date and I knew the person, but not even relaxing when I have scalding hot water on my head and the fear that one of those acrylic nails is going to cut into my scalp. The fake personal connection she’s trying to make is always a prelude to gentle suggestions that I let her wax my brows and talk me out of whatever utilitarian hairdo I had in mind today for something more “feminine”. Because of course, I have “such a pretty face, if only…” Yeah, this is why I gave up and started shaving my head.

  38. I’ve never had private instructions for things like yoga, etc (when I was very small I went with my mom to group classes and sort of followed along…), but I’ve had a lot of private music lessons. Fortunately, when you’re 12 and your instructor is middle-aged, there’s a bit less of a “let’s be friends” kind of opportunity, and my piano teacher wasn’t a real chatty person anyway. The clarinet teacher I had in high school was closer to my age, and more talkative by nature, but she also had her own clarinet out during lessons and was just as likely to start playing it to demonstrate things. So, it being difficult to talk and play the clarinet at the same time, it never became much of an issue. Also it would have been really rude for her to talk while I was playing, the whole point being that she is supposed to listen and give me feedback, and you really can’t listen and talk at the same time.

    You’d think teachers in other areas would realize that their talking takes away from the attention they can give to your efforts, whether you like being talked at or not. I’m sure that would annoy me if I ever end up in such a position. You’re not supposed to be thinking about your last date, you’re supposed to be paying attention to my form so you can let me know if I am about to irreversibly fuck up my body!

    I do feel terribly awkward with chatty dentists and dental hygienists. They seem to forget just what is going on and ask me questions, and I’m like…hi, your fingers are in my mouth.

    The teacher-student power dynamic is interesting to me because it seems like typically people in our capitalist culture feel like the fact that they are paying you (or even that someone else is paying you–look at the way service industry employees get treated) means that they have all the power. I suppose it’s the difference between skilled and unskilled labor. The more skilled you are, the more power you have within the relationship.

    There you go, Kate. If they don’t know any better than to chatter at you incessantly during lessons, they’re clearly not skilled enough to merit all the power in the relationship! Therefore, you should be able to stand up to them and demand better service.

    That uh…that totally makes it easier, right?

  39. I realize that “service industry” comment is ambiguous, since teachers and masseuses and such are in the service industry. But I was thinking of wage jobs like retail workers or the food service industry, where people are serving you but you are basically paying their employer, not them personally.

  40. You are a *consumer*, not just a student. (I tell this to therapy clients too, who are afraid to challenge their therapist’s authority). You are well within your rights, and even the bounds of “politeness,” to say “I notice I have a hard time being in my body and concentrating when we have a lot of side conversations. Maybe I’ll develop that focus eventually, but for now, could you help me stay focused on where my body is in space by being with me more non-verbally?”

  41. Augh that sounds awful. My yoga instructor (class, not private) teaches BY talking – he doesn’t demonstrate at all, he just wanders around the class explaining the postures – and it’s perfect, because there’s no times for random chattiness, he’s too busy actually talking about yoga.

  42. May I please respectfully disagree?
    I think that there could be cultural factors at play — it really depends on the context, the individual teacher and the individual student.
    In any professional role, it’s important to assess your “audience” — whoever that is — and if talking about yourself will be distracting and distancing — of course, don’t do it. But with some people, in some situations, talking about yourself in a limited, respectful way can put some people at ease. In some cultures, getting right down to business without some small talk or sharing of information about one’s family first is seen as downright rude.

    I am doing better now, but I was going through a really fucking hard time a while back, and there are a few people who were in “paying” roles who let me know they really did want to know what was going on with me, and were happy to be updated, and the reverse is also true. I don’t hang out and get coffee with each of these people, but I was new to town and a new mom and pretty isolated, so it helped. And hearing about their struggles was comforting. I know some people would really prefer not to have TMI, and I try to be aware of it in my professional life, but I think the way to go is this way:
    Assess, don’t assume.
    Tune into body language (hard to do on the internet).
    If a naturally chatty person, ask if it’s okay or too much and listen for an answer.
    If chatty, work on sitting with silence and tolerating it (a lifelong process for me).

    My best yoga teachers and fitness instructors have been reserved in class, but not necessarily unfriendly before and after, and I haven’t had much experience with personal trainers.

    If you think a teacher is good, and you get to the end of a bunch of sessions, and you would continue with the person but for the talking — I can’t see the problem in letting them know. If they are interested in continuing to work with you, they may be willing to reign it in, or figure out a way for you to respectfully convey that you need instruction, not conversation.

  43. I stopped taking yoga because of an overly-chatty teacher. I stopped getting chair massages they used to have at work because the therapist was too chatty. I can’t get into either yoga or the massage when the expert is distracted by prattle.

  44. Wow, that is truly bizarre behavior you are describing for someone who is supposed to, you know, be working with clients on quieting their minds.

    TELL ME ABOUT IT.

    But with some people, in some situations, talking about yourself in a limited, respectful way can put some people at ease. In some cultures, getting right down to business without some small talk or sharing of information about one’s family first is seen as downright rude.

    I agree with this, WRT2, but the problem is, the way they were talking at me was neither limited nor respectful. (And fwiw, both the instructors in question are American WASPs.)

  45. I find it really distracting, too, but my parents and my sister feel the opposite. I guess it works for them–they have struck up some life-long friendships with everyone from random strangers on the street to trainers/hairdressers/facialists/masseuses/repairmen–and they say it feels too clinical/unfriendly to remain in strict silence.

    My dad said that I should just speak up and say something if it bothered me, because that’s better than seething and increasingly resenting them in grim silence. Especially because my sister points out that she talks *more* sometimes when she feels like the other person is upset or doesn’t like her and isn’t saying why, because she finds that stressful/uncomfortable and she’d rather they just say they didn’t want to talk than let her ramble on like an idiot.

    So, now, whenever I start with someone new, I say something like, I get distractedly really easily and find it hard to focus on what I’m supposed to be doing if we’re having a conversation, so do you mind if we stick to just instructions? It works pretty well for me.

  46. I’m with WRT2 – I think it’s situational and dependent on the personalities involved. Me, I chat up a storm while getting massage (part of how I make it clear to the therapist that I’m comfy with my body and they can be, too). But then, when it comes to yoga, silence is golden.

    I do think it’s important to check in, directly or indirectly, with the person who’s PAYING. That’s where I believe the direction should come from….or no money should change hands.

  47. AMEN. I’ve been with my Pilates instructor so long that she can be pretty chatty — to the point where I really wanted to find someone else. But she’s such a great teacher and the studio is so conveniently located and reasonably priced that I’m hesitant to leave. My strategy has been to interrupt (quite rudely sometimes) the chit chat and ask about the exercise I’m doing, which snaps her into teacher mode and helps keep the focus on the lesson. “Are my feet close enough together? How can I get my hips higher? Are my arms straight?” all leads to an in depth description of how the exercise should be executed and I always learn something new, even after seven years of doing it.

    And I’ve hated the hairdresser chat my whole life. I think it started because I was so insanely shy, but now I just sit in the chair on a low simmer of tension and loathing. The new guy who cuts my hair will actually stop working and put his hands down by his sides every time he talks. ACK! Last fall I stopped getting highlights in my hair because I. Can. Not. Sit. In. That. Fucking. Chair. For. Four. Hours. I’d rather go for one hour every month than for four at a time every four months. I’ve been fantasizing about opening up a salon that focuses on getting the shit done quickly and efficiently instead of dealing with all of the chatty pampering bullshit. I realize some people really like that aspect of salons and spas and find it relaxing, but not me.

  48. I’m a high school English teacher, and although it’s not exactly the same as teaching mind/body work, I think some of the same principles apply, namely that if you’re the teacher and you’re doing all the thinking and talking, you’re students are not. This was driven home for one of my friends when a class in which she talked a lot ended, and one of her students said, “I love this class! It’s just like watching television!” She was horrified. . .it’s not exactly what we aim for when teaching kids to talk, read, write, so she had a huge shift in her teaching after that.

  49. I used to take some warm water therapy classes. The instructor talked non stop. How am I suppose to get into the “zone” I need to be in for this type of therapy with all that chatter.

    If I were paying someone my hard earned money to do anything for me—whether it is an instructor, waiter, sales clerk, or whatever—you better believe I speak up and voice my opinion.

  50. I had a personal trainer for one session that talked incessantly. . .even with weight lifting it was incredibly distracting. Especially when I was in the middle of a military press, and he leaned into my face and barked, “You want to work out with Pep Fit? Let’s see what you got! Bring it on!!”

    I froze mid-lift and said, confused, “I don’t know if I want to work out with Pep Fit!” and he explained, “Aw, that’s just my fitness name.”

    His fitness name!?

    I would take total silence over THAT nonsense any day!

  51. Geez Louise! I’m so sorry your instructors can’t shut the fuck up! Fortunately all of my instructors have been absolutely brilliant. They get me so “in the zone” that I’m nearly snoring by the time we finish in the corpse pose. Honest to God, I don’t know how I’d survive nyc without them, I think there’d probably be more murders on the subway without them, that’s all I can say. If you’re in nyc go to Yoga Effects on East 54th Street.

    Their classes helped me to quit smoking, lose weight, tone up, calm down and get off anti-depressants. They saved my life.

  52. Hehe Kate, it does but what I was more thinking with my comment is that there’s people who are just so dang chatty with relative strangers about these personal details of their lives. And I think thoughtracer hits it on the head saying that with people doing the yammering, it’s all about them and their needs and what they want.

    Our culture’s becoming more self-absorbed every day I think. A lot of people seem to be losing sight of the reality of other people. It never occurs to them that you and I don’t find their personal lives as riveting as they do.

  53. This is actually bringing back really warm memories for me of when I decided to fulfill my lifelong dream of ballroom dancing lessons. My teacher – who I adored – was quite the talker – most of the time it was telling stories and analogies related to dancing, but often veered into very personal territory, but stayed on the dance floor. But then I talked right along. Maybe it was particular to learning to dance, since he was leading me around and getting me talking helped removed a layer of self-consciousness about dancing. I remember him saying a lot of “see what you just did there?”
    That is the only private instruction I’ve ever had – I can see yoga being totally different. In group classes I love a good talk-through meditation at the end with a lot of “feel the water wash the sand away” ahh, good stuff. But coffee-shop-type chatting would be totally out of place.

  54. When I was first starting to teach college classes (lo these many years ago), one of the hardest things to do was allow time for students to answer a question. I got in the habit of counting to 10 (in my head!) after asking a question, because students need time to think. 10 is a LONG TIME when you are standing in front of bright-eyed youngsters. But it’s important not to feel obligated to fill silence; silence can be useful.

    Add me to the list of non-chatty salon-goers. For me it’s partly a matter of wanting to relax, and partly a matter of being totally fucking useless without my glasses. I’m definitely one of those people who, when I can’t see you, can’t really hear you, either. It’s like my brain just stops going. AND I LIKE THAT when I’m at the salon.

  55. Ok, this is kind of off topic, but last night I tried this thing called Zumba; it’s a combination of aerobics and Latin/Reggaton dance. It was extremely fun, also I did end up overexerting myself and almost passing out. :P
    The instructors were great. they made it fun.

  56. Things I dislike about MBS professionals:
    Everything you mentioned, Kate. Please STFU already.

    Especially if you have -
    1. A voice so dissonant I would give $$$ to hear chalk screeching on a blackboard instead.
    2. A voice so monotonal I don’t even realize you are talking. Light and shade helps pull me back.
    3. Exactly the same wording in your patter for every single session. Bored, much? My mind starts reciting it, instead of actually listening to you!
    4. A tendency to be negative and dismissive instead of encouraging and embracing of different abilities.

    p.s. Hairdressers are expected to jibberjabber because it builds client relationships. So -if you are friends with the client when you over-bleach/perm/cut their hair there is a better chance they will not cause a scene. It also helps to build that false loyalty where you are petrified to go elsewhere lest they get angry at you. BOLLOCKS!!!

  57. Okay I haven’t even read the comments yet and can’t wait to do that too but had to quickly write that I’m right with you Kate. I just can’t STAND hearing the teacher yammer on while I’m supposed to be concentrating.

    I mean, yeah maybe she is so confident in her abilities that she can do those moves without thinking (which sadly ISN’T the case but I digress…) but I can’t. Which is why I pay HER to teach ME and oh…I don’t know…like TELL me when I’m doing it wrong instead of focusing on using our time like her own personal therapy session.

    And once you’ve both GOTTEN to that chatty level, I’m not sure how you CAN go back to “Please, I need to concentrate on this. Am I doing it right?” without upsetting delicate sensibilities!!! For the love of pizza crust woman, I need to know if this Maya is CORRECT. I don’t GIVE a damn about what your slacker of a husband said to you 3 nights ago that really pissed you off, so much so that not only is your need for constant yammering messing up MY ability to remember the moves and perform the correctly, it is negatively affecting YOU as well so SHUT UP and TEACH me!!!!!! Oh and “Tee hee. I just don’t have a brain today” is not a humourous phrase after the 8th week. In a row.

    Ahh. You’re right. That felt good. Oh and for the record; this sort of “tip” (The Shut UP one) applies as well to belly dancing (and perhaps any other form of dancing taken in private lesson form); from which I draw my own experience listed above.

    Okay now to read about others’ experiences and thoughts…

  58. I haven’t taken private lessons in anything, but my experience at martial arts is that when we’re on the floor, we’re working. There’s no idle chit-chat because we all need to focus. If I’m teaching, I need to focus on however many students I have to make sure they are getting the best instruction from me, and if I’m taking a class, I need to focus on my body and what it’s doing.

    If I were in your situation, Kate, I would say something. If they want to keep your business, and are a good teacher, they will adjust their style to make you comfortable and happy. It’s not in their best interest to lose a client and it’s not in your best interest to spend a session shouting, “SHUT THE FUCK UP!!” in your head.

  59. I’m pretty anti-social, but I don’t really have a problem with the chattiness. Either I listen because it’s kinda interesting (like a soap opera or TV show or something), I don’t listen because I don’t care, or I tell them I’m having trouble concentrating. If they’re so friendly, I don’t see why it’s hard to be assertive with them. I wonder how many men would have trouble with it–maybe a lower percentage? The teacher would probably be really embarrassed if s/he knew how you felt and prefer that you say something. The teacher is a human and makes mistakes. If you don’t let them know, well…ball’s in your court.

    Wow, a lot of people have this problem and don’t say anything, judging from the comments. Just say you can’t concentrate! I can’t believe no one else is saying this. It seems far more cruel to complain behind someone’s back.

  60. Long time reader, first time poster.

    Anyway, I’ve been lucky in that most teachers – athletic and otherwise- that I’ve encountered had a pretty clear sense of boundaries. Neither of my yoga teachers were particularly chatty, and I know when I used to TA, my students knew the bare minimum about my personal life and that was it.

    However, I had the distinct displeasure to have a therapist that was all about the TMI. I knew more about his life than i did about mine sometimes. (As a reference point, the only things i know about my current doctor is that he’s over retirement age, went to Ohio State about 30 years before I did, and takes the sort of vacations that I wish I could afford.) I knew it was over when he started telling me about his wife’s breastfeeding habits. I decided I didn’t want his wife’s tits in my sessions and fired him.

  61. Re: his fitness name

    Oh hell no. So not the trainer for me.

    Because I’d be the sort to look at him and say ‘You go ahead, I’ll be over here lying on the floor laughing my ass off.’ And then I’d DO just that.

    I’ve dropped out of a class because the instructor would not shut up but could not find a way to work explaining modifications for anyone not at her level into her constant stream of chat. Yes, yes, it’s nice you can do that pose that way, but half your class is middle aged beginners so how about teaching THEM too? And forget anyone needing to modify a pose because of a disability.

    Which would have been frustrating enough but (and now I’m going to join the All Caps Brigade) SHE WAS REPLACING A TEACHER WHO GAVE MODS AND WORKED WITH FOLKS WITH DISABILITIES. And didn’t keep using poses that half the class couldn’t do and not bothering to give them anything to occupy their time.

    Gah.

  62. Alicia Maud — Pep Fit is such a great story.
    Charlotte – I’ve been taking Zumba, too. I don’t love my instructor but I’m enjoying the music and moves. It’s not that she talks during class, either, she’s just not a trained dancer, more of a step instructor/athlete, and tries hard but isn’t really feeling it.

  63. I’m amazed only one person so far has mentioned my own personal bane: dental hygienists. Aside from the basic fact that most of their activities make it difficult to talk, WHY can they not realize how loathsome I find their intrusive “friendliness”?
    I see you briefly twice a year. I did not choose you; I chose the DENTIST and you came along as part of the package. How are my kids? Maybe they’re dead, estranged, or causing me stress and grief in any of innumerable ways. How’s my job? Maybe I got fired. How’s my spouse? Maybe we are getting divorced. Where am I from? Maybe I’m in the freaking Witness Protection Program!!! How’s any other aspect of my personal life? Maybe you are touching on a painful topic, which of course you could not know because you DON’T KNOW ME personally. And even if every aspect of my life is just peachy keen, maybe I do not want to share it with you because you are a TOTAL STRANGER.
    Talk to me about the weather, and I will silently worship you as a goddess. I have 28 teeth and I can generate remarks on the weather for however long it takes you to gouge at every one of them with little metal hooks. In a perfect world, we would not need to make conversation at all, but that’s just a fantasy. If you feel the need to put me at ease, exhibit your good intentions, or check that I am still alive, bring on the weather!

  64. GAHHH.. I can’t handle the chatty cathys.
    As evidenced here.

    As far as confronting the verbal poopers, sometimes they’re incapable of seeing outside themselves. For example, that sketch was pretty much autobiographical (minus the murder) and my friend STILL doesn’t understand why I refuse to answer his phone calls unless I have at least 45 minutes of free time.

  65. bbruger and wellroundedtype2–

    The only reason I could deal was because I was reassuring myself that Pep Fit was going to make a good story. I’m the sort that blushes easily, and mostly on behalf of other people–shy, pretty quiet. I have NO IDEA why he thought I would be the type to respond well to someone yelling in my face. . . I felt all the embarrassment he SHOULD have felt at his behavior. My face was on freakin’ fire!

    I quit that gym, eventually. . .it was too hard to avert my eyes to avoid contact. . .I started to fear it was putting me in danger on the treadmill!

  66. omg! this reminds me so much of my yoga teacher who just couldn’t stop talking. once, i had back ache because it took us a long time to come out of a pose because he kept on talking about the benefits of it.

  67. Pingback: I promise « Musings by Rhiain

  68. I used to go by ‘wren’ round these here parts, but had to change it due to an unfortunate incident involving a left-open window and people at my university library being jerks.

    Anyway, I’m training to be a pilates instructor, and Kate, THANKS for this! I taught middle school a few years back, and I still have that chatter-to-fill-silence training in there somewhere to help those awkward kids be less awkward. I promise not to let it bleed over into pilates.

    That being said, I think the posters above who have recommended saying something are probably right–the teacher’s probably doing it because it’s just part of her schtick, but I doubt she’d continue if she knew it were hurting your practice.

    It surprises me it happens in yoga; pilates, not so much. My experience it that most people start with yoga, since it’s more accessible, and if they like it in general but want something more high-energy, try pilates. Pilates instructors can be crazy high-energy, just like aerobics instructors. It can be so frustrating when you’re trying to focus inward and they’re treating class like a show about How Damn Cheerful They Are. Argh.

  69. Sorry for the double post, but I just thought of something; I wonder if you could try, before you get mats out etc., just saying her that YOU’RE having an off day so you want to work extra-hard on concentrating? That might help keep her from getting her feelings hurt (which shouldn’t be an issue, but I think erin might be right about the difficulty of backing off from the chatty level).

    Then at the end of class just say something like, “I think being able to focus more really helped, I feel like I got an awesome workout.” Pilates teachers (I’m assuming this is what this was) are always stressing about making sure you FEEL it, since when you first start out the weird muscles you’re using might not be toned enough for you to feel what you should, if that makes sense. If you can tell her that her shutting up let that happen, she should be all for it.

  70. Pilates teachers (I’m assuming this is what this was) are always stressing about making sure you FEEL it, since when you first start out the weird muscles you’re using might not be toned enough for you to feel what you should, if that makes sense

    It does make sense, ’cause during my first session, I didn’t feel it–at least until the next day. My second session was THE BEST EVAR, because I had a totally all-business, non-chatty instructor who worked some sort of magic that got me feeling it right away. I don’t even know what she did so right–if she explained it differently, just picked the right exercises for me, put exactly the right amount of tension on the machines, or what. Or maybe I was just ABLE TO CONCENTRATE because she wasn’t yammering. Whatever it was, it was a world of difference from the first session–I felt my core muscles working the whole damn time. (So naturally, she hardly ever teaches there, and trying to set up a regular schedule with her would be nearly impossible.) Next two sessions with different instructors, I had a better idea of what it felt like to engage the right muscles, but the magic wasn’t there anymore. And one of those was the chatty Cathy. Sigh.

    Thanks for the advice, rhiain and everyone.

  71. This is so true about therapists.
    I would never consider mine a friend (man, that would be awkward what with him knowing my deepest fears and such), but every so often he’ll spend a good 15 minutes yammering on about a holiday or a laptop or whatever. It really pisses me off – I feel the power imbalance in our relationship is such that I can’t really tell him, ‘Hey, I’m paying a LOT for these minutes, could be focus on me please?’, so I sit there silently resenting him.

    As for teachers and instructors – my fiddle teacher used to leave slightly early, so I started putting a small bedside clock on the table we practise next to. Now, if anything, we run over.

    I think this subtle approach could work for those in Kate’s situation. Perhaps asking the instructor what time it is would remind her a) you are paying for her time, b) whatever she still has to fit into the lesson.

  72. Yes, well, the “don’t shit where you eat” rule is one of the problems I have these days with my Rodney Yee videos, because while the videos are fantastic is a bit too self-conscious about his own alleged awesomeness for my taste.

    Basically, he got involved with one of his students and left his wife for her; they got married last year. Had I known that his yoga ball kit, which is fantastic for dealing with neck and back tightness and sciatica, had a video featuring his new bride, I wouldn’t have bought it. As a denizen of a long-term marriage to someone who has been known to have some very minor boundary blurring, I find this whole notion that only the blonde, willowy former model who’s in your Friday night yoga class is your true soulmate and it’s OK to toss your wife for her kind of distasteful. Sort of interferes with the zen of the practice.

  73. I hate intimate chatter from people I’m paying for a service, but I hate confrontation even more. I’m a big fan of indirect action and putting the blame on myself. In your shoes, Kate, I might (like Suzanne) interrupt the chatter to ask if I’m doing something correctly, or how long should I hold this, or say I’m having a problem doing such and so. Adding apologies for interrupting them, and being so focused on what I was doing that I wasn’t able to concentrate on what they were talking about, puts the ‘error’ on me, which soothes the sting, and if the teacher has any sense at all, they’ll realize that they’re being given a big ole hint to shut up the chatter and focus on their job.

  74. It was great to read so many posts from like minds. What I am looking for is a strategy to deal with chatty cathys.

    My biggest problem is restaurants which features waiters who want to bond with me in an effort to drum up tips. When I tell them I would like to eat in peace, thanks, they get nasty and offended. I had to leave that particular restauant as the corporate policy was to chat up patrons.

    I now go to a much quieter asian place…and now that I have become a regular, the wait staff is wanting to get to know me better. These efforts are now ruining my experience.

    This may sound petty, but I hate going to the pay at the cash register and have the manager try to pump me for information, asking me about my personal life…or if I read a newspaper for lunch, what i found interested in the news. Now that he knows I follow news, he tries to get my opinion on current events. Nothing against the guy but I am there to eat and leave. I find it draining to have to have this conversation and to be subjected to his efforts, which to me, seem like he is pulling on me…even trying to get up the courage to ask for a date. Constant chattyness and wanting to engage despite my disinterest.

    Today I took to going into the restaurant as a complete slob (messy hair, no make up, slovenly, glasses instead of contacts) …and he didn’t want to chat with me then…in fact, he took my money, pleasantly and allowed me to leave without trying to intercept and babble at me. Is this what i have to resort to? Be a slob to get peace? Well presented, and somehow I become someone he wants to know better….

    Its nice to know that others share my desire for a little peace.

  75. As I get older I do a better job of recognizing situations that are about to happen, like watching a familiar movie plot. At those moments, I think to myself , “This is the part where… (insert mishap here)”. So, I really try to see things coming and think about how to acheive my goal without the mishap (which for me, often involved not getting injured or making a huge mess).

    So, now, I always tell my massage therapist, hair stylist, etc, any specific preference beforehand. I tell them in a way that I think will be welcomed so they know they are doing a great job for me and they can take pride in helping me achieve my goal…in peace and quiet!

    Another important thing is to adjust my own perspective on the relationship. If I am paying, I am the boss. I remind myself that my doctor might have 20 years of education, but they took those 20 years of education for the opportunity to have someone pay them for your time. They aren’t my boss. They’re just a person hanging out a shingle. If they have a horrible bedside manner, I’ll pass. I’m the customer/client and I’ll take my mind/body/wallet elsewhere, thanks!

    My wife is supremely in the camp of conflict avoidance. We talk about it all the time and I get to see how she feels about confronting anyone or allowing them to be uncomfortable even by omission. It’s difficult when you feel responsible for other’s feelings, even when it’s not your responsibility. Then I hear about it, after the fact, and I learn and grow from it by gaining that insight and wisdom of that window into another person. Clearly there are a lot of people who feel that way.

    Like you, she would not have said anything to the instructor, but simply gone somewhere else. If someone doesn’t want to have that conflict, I don’t think they should. It’s not the client/customer’s job to teach the teacher. You’re going there to relieve stress, not build it up more and have to live with the aftermath of that confrontation running through your head. (“Have I offended the teacher? Are they hating me now? Gosh, I’m REALLY not relaxed now!”) And then that narrative of the conflict follows you around for the rest of the day/week.

    Besides, if the instructor isn’t capable of reading you, they aren’t ready to teach you. If they can’t stop talking, how are they going to know you’re breathing properly? At that point, I realize this person isn’t going to help me and I wouldn’t come here even for free.

    I think that thinking about myself as the empowered person in the relationship and setting up my expectations up front helps to avoid the messy situations that always follow confrontations, like the inevitable movie plot, only now, I can change the script for the ending I want to see.

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