March 28, 2013

"Breaking up" with your Hairdresser

 Okay, this isn't exactly a personal problem, but I get a lot of questions about this topic. So, in an attempt to stay current and what's happening now, today we’re going to talk about how to deal with the uncomfortable task of changing stylists. You women know what I'm talking about. You've decided to change hairdressers but you're not exactly sure how to do it without creating bad feelings or an unpleasant scene. Even worse what do you do when you accidentally run into that person at the mall? While it may sound trivial, this situation is an example of common dilemma which can happen when the fundamental psychological rule of avoiding dual relationships is violated.Bridge Street when we discuss why its so difficult to change stylists and show you how to go about it.

Q. Why is breaking up with a hairdresser so difficult?

A. To begin, we don’t have the same difficulty changing banks or going to a different gas station or repair shop as we do with a hair dresser. That’s because the roles are simpler and more clearly defined with a bank teller than they are with a hairdresser.  We may be friendly with our banker but we rarely become personal friends.

Hair stylists, on the other hand, provide a unique kind of service.  Because we often talk to them and they often talk to us about personal information, it is easy to get to know and care about that person.  Unfortunately, when this happens, not only do you have a professional or service based relationship but also a personal relationship.

When  personal and professional aspects of a relationship are mixed, the emotional involvement can result in a painful conflict.  For example, when we want to change stylists, it also may require ending a friendship… and that is the part that gets sticky.  While part of us wants to try someone new, another part cares about our hairdresser’s feelings and we don’t won’t to hurt him or her. Therein lays the psychological conflict and the emotional difficulty.

Q. What can I do if I’m thinking about making a change with a long time hairdresser ?

A. - Address the problem promptly. Be direct and don’t postpone avoid talking about it.          

    - Be specific and say what concerns you, such as you didn’t like the last cut or s/he’s always late or s/he talks or texts others while doing your hair.

    - Give the person a chance to fix the problem. If you do and things improve, you won’t have to change. If you do and things don’t get better, you’ll feel better about changing.  

Q. How to tell your hairdresser you want a change ?

A. - Remember that you are entitled to change and you don’t have to justify your reasons or get permission. You aren’t doing anything wrong.  Your hairdresser will understand. Also, change often involves some pain and grieving. You can’t avoid it but it won’t kill you either. It’s completely normal. 

    - Be brief and to the point. When it’s over, simply say that and don’t make up elaborate excuses.

    - Leave the door open. That way you’ll feel less awkward if you run into him/her somewhere and, who knows, you could change your mind.

Q. What can I do to avoid the problem next time?

A. - Don’t mix professional and personal relationships. Think ahead. Chose a hairdresser solely on the basis of his/her ability not because you like them or because you want to be their friend.  Pay attention to the kind of things you talk about. If you need to talk about a problem, talk to a friend or a therapist.

    - Maintain the boundaries. Likewise if s/he pours out her stuff, it is important to, while being polite, keep things on professional basis. If you don’t pick up on his/her personal comments s/he will get the message and back off.                                        

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, prepared these “Life Smarts” remarks, for Bridge Street, 3 27 2013. www.revmichaelheath.com

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