It's no secret that we as stylists get to know a LOT of people during our careers. I expected, and hoped, for that when I decided to do hair for a living. What I didn't expect were all the life lessons I would learn from my clients, some of them inadvertently. In a previous post I talked about how the relationship between client and stylist is a unique one (read that post here), and it was one of my most popular posts ever. So I thought I'd dive deeper into the complexities surrounding the relationships that a stylist builds with her clients, this time from my own very personal perspective.
In the last few years our political climate has gotten so extremely polarized. It's easy to take "sides." I've seen friends no longer be friends due to differing political views. Throughout all of this I kept thinking to myself, what is it I'm not getting? Why am I different? How can I continue to be friends with people I disagree with when others are struggling with this concept? I honestly think the whole thing is so silly, because I know that we can be friends, or at least friendly, with those who have different views. But how did I come to know this when so many of my peers have not? It hit me one day that it's because I'm a hairstylist.
I have people from all walks of life sit in my chair. Republican & Democrat, male & female, straight & gay, black & white & brown. My youngest client was probably about 2 months old with his first haircut, and the oldest was in her 90s, and every age in between. I have clients that will sit down and talk my ear off, whereas others prefer to sit quietly. Some ask questions, some just let me do my thing. Some stay the same and some change every time. I've certainly had those in my chair who I disagree with fundamentally, but I don't refuse to do their hair because of it. I generally don't even offer my opinion in return, I just listen. Sometimes I ask questions. And if it's a subject that I know might offend someone I work with or their client I'll simply steer the subject in another direction. Not ever have I yelled, accused, or condemned anyone who has an opposing view to my own. Actually, it's often the opposite! I tend to have the most interesting conversations with those who have another viewpoint.
Honestly, I LOVE our differences. Really! Life would be so boring if we were all the same. What I don't love is that somehow, somewhere along the line we've forgotten how to listen and understand one another. What I've learned from my clients is that even if there is something we fundamentally disagree on, there's something else that unifies us. Being a parent, going to school, hobbies...there's always something. I tend to try to figure out what that might be during my first visit with a guest, and it's the one thing that keeps them coming back for more.
The lesson is this: if you find yourself in a situation in which you don't agree with someone ASK QUESTIONS. Those questions can be to understand their opposing view, or they can be questions to try to find out what you do have in common. Now, I'm not saying you have to become best buds or anything (but you might!), just be understanding. Have an open mind and you'll be surprised where it can take you.