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The Subtle Art of Consulting

Updated: May 31, 2020

There's an art in communicating with one another... and we aren't taught in school. Language is taught yes, though not for positive emotional communication between each other. Kinda like personal hygiene, hopefully you are lucky enough to have someone teach you a bit more than wash your hands, brush your teeth and shower. Unfortunately, you just don't know what you don't know, well, until you know.

If you disagree, maybe I just missed that class... There's nothing more disheartening then not really knowing if the kids on the play ground are actually your friends or if you are their jester. When I first started hairdressing behind the chair, I'd come home crying everyday to my boyfriend (and future ex husband...). I constantly felt stressed, awkward and like I was doing everything wrong. I simply didn't know how to communicate effectively and control that conversation. Hairdressing is like multi-tasking on crack! Not only are you performing a technical service which includes math and science, you are also playing friend and therapist. And you are expected to wave the magic wand, creating a master piece that someone will either leave beaming or balling... It's a lot. Overtime these skills become second nature, though it really does take time and experience.

I realized quickly, if I was going to stay in the client side of the beauty industry, I needed to adapt. There is a give and take. Most importantly as a hairdresser, you are providing a service. Including customer service. I naturally feel more comfortable having as much data as I can. But, honestly the more information you have the happier everyone will be. I like to take this one to all communication situations, listen and ask, from authenticity. Don't just wait for someone to stop talking so you can have zero consideration for what they have shared and just talk at them. That is not a conversation, its a two personal monologue, the worst acapella ever sung. Nothing will be communicated, heard, received or solved like that.

If you aren't comfortable communicating your basic needs and wants, ask yourself why. Is it the place? The situation? The other person? Do you have fears you need to process? Is your ego taking over? Do you have trauma around getting your hair done? If something is making you uncomfortable, addressing it may be the only way to get to the other side of it. And, sometimes we can be aware and acknowledge what is making us uncomfortable, yet also know it is for the good. Because when you get down to it, if you can't say yes or no, or explain in your own words things about yourself and your hair, how is someone else suppose to?

Clients, at this point I know some of you are saying 'But I don't want to answer all those questions, that's why I came to you.' And I hear that. And a hairdresser can create hair for you that you may love, purely based on what they're feeling that day or the shape of your face. And that hairdresser is out there for you. But, what happens when you don't like it? Do you feel good saying 'Well, I said do whatever'? Some of you will, most won't.

Your hairdresser is responsible for asking you questions, creating and offering you a well rounded consultation. As the client you are responsible for answering those questions and objecting when something isn't clear to you. And it is up to both to speak up, hairdresser and client, if one of you strongly feels it is not possible to have a positive end result. Who wants to be in such an intimate space, doubting everything for that much time? Not I, not I!

Lastly, if either of you are unhappy when the service is complete, I strongly feel something should be said then as well. It may be a small adjustment right then and there or you may need to re-consult and reschedule another appointment. I'd like to tell you we are all perfect.... sadly, I'll be the first to admit that I am not and things have turned out not as expected before. I would also say that if I think it looks perfect and my client doesn't say anything, I will never know, thus never grow! And I feel that is even more sad, to this perfectionist, than not being perfect. Any good hairdresser, not hiding behind their ego, will be happy to learn, grow and resolve the (probably small) fix.

Overall, being heard, seen and understand is the simplest, most basic need we have as humans when it comes to communication, connection and community. If you aren't receiving that, whether its your hairdresser or key relationships in your life, make the move for better.

A few tips for your next consult:

Client Tips:

- Pictures are great, think about what it is you like about them.

- Answer the questions, if you honestly don't have an answer, that is fine. Your hairdresser just wants to paint the best picture.

- Be honest! About your hair history, your expectations and your fears.

- Repeat what you believe will happen back to your hairdresser.

- If you feel a disconnect, tell your hairdresser... it may be wise to cancel your appointment (if your hairdresser can't switch to help understand the disconnect, they probably don't want to do your hair either!).

- If you have a service done and don't like it, tell your hairdresser. They should be happy to learn the misunderstanding and improve as a hairdresser.*

Hairdresser Tips:

In Practice:

- Pay closer attention to the tone and type of conversations your mentors/colleagues have with their clients. Observe the clients before/ after and their body language.

- Ask those same mentors/colleagues questions when they are available (based on what you observed).

- Take a lot of classes. Ask the Educators questions too.

- Make notes about what you've learned and on your client profiles.


- Ask a lot of questions, especially opened ended ones.

- Do any answers received conflict with other answers (I want my hair to be piecy but I don't like texture, those to can be contradictory and difficult to be together. Ask more questions).

- Read between the lines. Unfortunately, this is an art developed over time and not always consistent. Reading into what your client may actually what, though does not know how to say...

- Study the trends so you can understand different verbiage. The things I've heard over the years...

- Read your clients style. Try to observe their style when they arrive, ask if that's their everyday style.

- Understand their expectations. Ask questions about maintenance, previous experiences and confirm that you understand what they want out of their visit.

- Always repeat what you have agreed to do. And ask them to repeat it back to you.

*If you aren't willing to see that same stylist for a fix, don't go write a bad review. Most hairdressers work on commission, so asking another stylist in the same salon to do the fix instead is asking them to do your hair for free because you aren't open to another conversation. If what you asked for and what you had done are that far off and not fixable, a good salon will most likely refund/credit your money or offer a complimentary service with the owner. If they aren't, it generally means its an easy enough fix. Unfortunately not all places are like this making it easy to feel uncertain and angry.


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