From superstitions about unlucky redheads to misconceptions about highly textured coils, conversations around certain types of tresses can – pardon the pun – get a little hairy.
Stylists should always be conscious of comments that could come off as a criticism or simply as insensitive, so we’re here to help untangle some of these trickier, less technical soft skills so you can communicate with clients with no offense taken.
Listening skills are essential as a stylist, and one of the best things you can do is make your clients feel at ease when telling you their styling history or current hair horrors. You may have clients willing to chat about their sex life or vent about the day they had at work, but they might clam up with embarrassment when they’ve let their haircare routine fall to the wayside or had an at-home coloring session go away. Stay visually engaged, ask questions, observe their body language, and be sure to show you’re listening with zero judgment.
The hardest part about these types of conversations is often getting them started. It may be best to first open the floor to your clients by asking questions about their goals or concerns. When you’re letting them answer questions, you can respond to what they’re saying with your guidance rather than starting off with a potentially unsolicited opinion. Listen for cues that may offer an opportunity for you to respond sympathetically with your professional advice or observations.
For some clients, predominantly those with highly textured hair in the Black or brown communities, the salon experience can feel overwhelming or unwelcoming. Even when you relate to clients culturally, certain phrases may become isolating and offensive as customers may feel extra vulnerable with their hair in your hands. Educate yourself on terminology that may have negative connotations for your clients – that can be everything from more apparent terms like “nappy” hair to more subtle offenses such as referring to redheads as “gingers.”
When clients are in your chair, they’re there because they know you’re the expert, but knowing that doesn’t make them any less sensitive to what they could perceive as criticism. Find a balance when you’re making observations or sharing advice that speaks confidently to your experience as a professional without making them feel bad about their current hair status. Avoid “Oh girl, what happened here?!” and try “We’ve got this. I know exactly what you want and how to get you there!”
As the conversation progresses, keep your eyes and ears open for subtle cues from your client that they may be feeling uncomfortable or potentially offended by the direction of the conversation. Know when to pull back if you feel they may be getting prickly about the topic at hand.
At the end of the day, extend an authentic apology for any comments you think clients may have misconstrued as offensive. If things got really awkward, you may even want to make amends by offering a small discount. A few dollars can go a long way to guaranteeing are turn customer and getting the egg off your face.
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