“If you don’t have passion, you are just a cutter or colorist. It is the passion within which drives us to continuously reinvent ourselves by boldly pursuing education. It is passion which allows us the opportunity to artistically express that passion in shapes, lines and tones on our clients.” K Williams
Everybody wants to be heard, and they want what they say to be not just their truth but truth to all who listen. Humans are indeed pre-occupied with their own opinions. I’m no psychologist, though I’ve experienced those clients who want to spew out their entire life once they sit in the chair. Yet after 35 years in this industry and many, many clients, I know one thing for sure, we are fanatical about what we know regardless of whether there is a grain of truth to it or not and we’d rather talk than listen. This was curious to me so I went a research mission. Here’s what I found.
According to Wikipedia, A” salon” is described as a “gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.” In the 17th century, especially in Europe the salon was not a place where women got their hair done, instead it was a gathering place for women to exchange ideas, educate other women and create agendas. In reading further, I discovered women were powerful in salons as defined above. They had influence. Women were the center of life in the salon and were regarded as the “regulators,” where they selected the guests and decided the topics or subjects they would discuss and even try to solve. While most of the subjects were literary or social, they did, embrace politics as well and participated in valid discussions led by an appointed mediator. Fascinating.
The “salons” as they knew them, were an informal university for women where they exchanged ideas, received and offered criticism and studied literary pieces of that era. In fact, many of the more ambitious women used the salon to pursue a form of higher education. Salons in the 17th & 18th century “helped facilitate the breaking down of social barriers which made the development of the enlightenment salon possible,” according to Wikipedia. Who knew?
A salon, in today’s sense of the word, can still be considered a “gathering “of people who exchange ideas, but the main focus is hair. The entire client’s experience should be about how they can maintain the look at home until they come back into the salon to get it refreshed or reshaped. While the purpose of a salon has experienced metamorphosis, I believe some of what it used to be in the 17th & 18th Century still exists today but of course, modernized. Today’s clients have changed. Culture has changed, it’s a new era, with a new focus, and social media is at the forefront of it all. I see images of hair color and the techniques which produced the results, cuts & styles parading across the screen of smart phones, iPads, laptops all under the guise of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumbler, Pinterest and YouTube. These images are loaded by giants in our industry: individuals and iconic figures from brand companies as well as from hairstylists and barbers behind the chair. It’s amazing, curious and mind-boggling. I wonder, with the advent of social media at our fingertips in the matter of a nano second, have we lost the ability to socialize and interact one on one? That is a another blog topic waiting to happen.
What can’t be denied is: Hairdressers are passionate, passionate not only about our technical skills and experience, but also about what we “know.” Oft times the opinions we adopt about our client’s “life” become melded with our knowledge of hair making it difficult to separate the “who from the do” and the outcome could create a genius in the mind of the stylist but the clients eat it up because, well, they’re very protective and like to view their “hairdresser” as talented but temperamental which is “Hollywoodish” making them feel prominent by default. I know, I’m stretching it here, but, wait, it’s my blog. You’re under no obligation to read it. Yea, I just said that. I find it all so intriguing. Sometimes I wish I could be an apprentice just so I can study this theory however preposterous. I would definitely write a book and maybe sell rights to a producer. I could be famous (laughing out loud right now or LOL for those of you who need an acronym).
If you have any professional ethics, you’re clever enough to know there are certain topics to avoid behind the chair. Regardless of this code; stylists still make the mistake of sharing too much information about their personal lives. You can care about your clients; reward them for their loyalty without making them your bestie. At the end of the day, they’re clients which you depend on for income. In fact, spending time with them outside the salon could affect your professional relationship and they could begin expecting discounted services. It’s just not good business practices. I’ve had clients I adored or appreciated and in addition to giving them my all with professionalism and integrity, I may reward them with up services such as deep conditions, waxing or products that will invariable make them feel truly valued.
In an article “6 Topics to Avoid Discussing” written by Dawn Rosenberg McKay, who is a career planning expert, the top 3 to avoid are: Religion, Politics & Sex. She elaborates by saying “religion is sensitive.” Your clients don’t want to hear your opinion about their beliefs. A discussion on politics can get heated up in less time than it takes to upload an image on Instagram from a smartphone. McKay wrote “it’s unlikely you will sway anyone away from their party or candidate.” Is your opinion important enough to possibly lose a client? Another hot topic to avoid is your sex life. I mean I find it absurd that I have to even mention this one, it should be a given. But I have heard more details than I care to mention from co-workers sharing their bedroom exploits last night, or the other day or last week. McKay writes: “Your business is yours alone.” Frankly, it’ distasteful, unprofessional and it starts rumors which could hurt you professionally. Why risk it. Those top 3 are topics you should avoid in any social situation but in a salon environment I’d like to add a couple more to the list. Stylists should never, and I truly mean never, discredit another stylist. In the end, it only discredits you.
And finally “your problems,” why do stylists feel the need to talk about their struggles? I’ve heard my share of trials, tribulations and circumstances shared with clients and sometimes over and over again throughout the day. I wanted to say “No, you didn’t just say that?” should I call the Whambulance or give you a box of tissues for your issues?” But rather than make a scene, I’d try to focus on the task before me; realistically, it should be all about the client who’s sitting in your chair. As part of their salon experience, their interests, wants, needs & desires should be your only concern. And yet, some stylists monopolize the time with copious conversations of partner problems, money issues, gossip and complaints. I’d be curious to know what their client retention and referral rate is.
My final thoughts are this: we are a curious, temperamentally-creative bunch of crafters who sees the world in tones, lines and shapes, and the result of this is magic. Our focus should be on the making of this magic: it’s formulas and techniques and shapes-of-the-lines as well as honoring the clients who allow us the opportunity to express ourselves with their hair. We need to get back to what is important which isn’t just delivering a bunch of spoken words that can strike like lightening and rumble through the salon looking for self-confidence and joy to devour and destroy. It’s not our opinions that matter, but rather our magic-in-the-making.
Let’s get back to that “inspiring host” mentality. Yes, I did just say that.