Please Tell Me: How do I tell a practitioner there’s a problem?

A client looking for advice from practitioners:

Okay, I’ve been putting this off for a while, thinking I’d get over it, but I need some coaching here. How can I tell a massage practitioner that a lot of her presentation and delivery were really off-putting? Normally, if I go to a favorite restaurant, for example, and the service or food isn’t up to their usual standard, I’ll say something—as nicely and as quietly as I can, of course. I’m not angry; I just think they should know. If no one tells them, how would they be able to fix the issue before it becomes a problem? This is something I’m comfortable doing. Usually. WHY can’t I talk to a massage practitioner this way?

See, a couple of months ago, I was prescribed massage by my doctor. I picked a practitioner my chiropractor recommended. I met her the day I made the appointment. She was cheerful and positive and her office and room looked and smelled great. Fabulous. Sign me up.

Things went downhill when I climbed up on her table to begin. The headrest was merely a vertical slit in the foam. As cavalier as I am about public germs, I couldn’t get help obsessing over what kind of illnesses clients in sessions before me may have had. Can you even clean foam? And I won’t even get into the obvious imagery or the smell. Just ick. And this dear, kind, charming practitioner, who I would absolutely hang out with on any given day, was the loudest talker I have ever experienced. I tried both responding very quietly and not responding at all. Didn’t work. Oh, dear.

When it’s bodywork I have a problem with, I feel like I can respond as we move through the session. And if, in the end, our styles don’t match, okay, no problem. This practitioner’s bodywork itself was technically fine. This is more of a personal thing. I canceled the rest of my appointments with her. I feel like I should give her an explanation but I don’t know how to start. “Your table creeps me out and you’re loud,” is not a message designed to affect positive change.

Any advice?

Also, looking back, I don’t think I’ve ever had a practitioner encourage me to tell them if there is any aspect of the room or behavior that makes me uncomfortable—except music and pressure, of course.

Do you have a way clients can give suggestions and critique your work? A suggestion box, perhaps? Is it part of your initial intake list of expectations? Has any client ever shared concern in an impressively diplomatic way?

Please share…