How to be a Healthy Hairdresser: Emotional Support

by laurahusband / last updated August 29, 2018

Emotional support

Public speaker and communication strategist Janet Taras shares simple tactics for how to give clients and colleagues emotional support with resilience and compassion

The scenario:

Imagine yourself in the following salon scenario – it’s a Thursday afternoon and you are running behind schedule. One of your clients sits down in your chair and starts telling you all about her problems with her husband and stops to ask for your advice. What do you say and do you offer emotional support? You are not a qualified therapist, nor do you want to be, and yet she is looking at you with expectant eyes.

The solution:

This scenario requires both resilience and compassion to provide emotional support. This woman didn’t just come to your salon for a new haircut, even if she thinks she did. She is looking for a listening ear and to receive some support. You are not qualified to solve your client’s problems; however you can show interest and compassion by nodding.  Once in a while you can throw in a well-timed question such as ‘I see, how did that make you feel?’ or ‘that must have been hard for you – how did he react?’ This technique allows you to show that you care without getting involved. Another technique is called the giving a story with a story technique. This involves sharing a similar story with your client and hopefully they will learn something from your tale. Finally, you could try the sympathetic but not engaged technique where you explain that your sister or friend went through something similar, but she never did figure out how to deal with it.

The scenario:

A client has told you to do whatever you want with her hair. You appreciate her trust and enjoy coming up with creative ideas. She is on the phone for most of the appointment and barely looks up to speak to you. When you finish, she looks up and gets tears in her eyes and begins yelling – ‘What were you thinking? This is horrible’.

The solution:

This is a difficult scenario because it is confrontational and a direct criticism of your work. Take a big breath because this might feel personal but you are still in a place of business and so you must remain calm. Let her yell for a minute and if she doesn’t stop, ask her to sit down with you somewhere in private so you can talk about her concerns and invite a manager or colleague to join if possible. It’s best to start with a question as opposed to an accusation, such as ‘what were you hoping for?’ or ‘what is it you don’t like?’ and ‘is there any part that you are happy with?’ Listen to what she says to get a better understanding of what she was expecting. After this, you can explain that you have no problem creating the style she wants, which you are now clear about. However, next time it would be useful if she could give you some boundaries or point you in the right direction.

There’s a lot to be learned from this situation. For example, if a client tells you to do as you wish, keep checking with them along the way. Never assume that your vision is the same as your client’s, and never feel bad interrupting a phone call to make sure you are going along the right lines.

Janet’s six tips for how to confront challenging issues in the salon…

  1. Before you have a difficult conversation, ask yourself is what I am going to say going to help or hinder the situation?
  2. Before speaking, think about someone you love or a very cute puppy. It sounds cheesy but this will change your demeanour from angry to more receptive.
  3. Know your triggers. Generally, what upsets us comes from a place where our values lie. It is important to know what will set you off in order to control your temper.
  4. Remember that the person with whom you are having a difficult conversation thinks they are right, but there is such a thing as two people being right.
  5. Apply frankincense on a tissue before a courageous conversation to help calm and focus you.
  6. Aromatherapy Associates DeStress Mind Bath and Shower with Camomile and Petitgrain will help you to clear your mind after a particularly emotionally challenging day.

The salon owner’s perspective:

Karen Thomson, company director at KAM Hair and Body Spa says it’s crucial to offer emotional support during a difficult situation. “Whenever a difficult situation arises, whether it be with a client or team member, we hold an open-door policy where the individual in question can discuss their issue in a secure and confidential environment. It’s very important to show compassion to the individual, whilst also putting in play the issue in question and a plan to resolve this efficiently.”

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