No matter how old you are or where you come from, there is one common experience that we all share. Everyone, at some point, has gotten a haircut that they hated.
If you take a minute to think about it, you can probably still feel the tight sense of dread and the tears stinging at the corner of your eyes as your stylist hands you the mirror so that you can see their handiwork for yourself.
So how do you tell them without hurting their feelings and running your relationship?
The relationship between a client and stylist is truly unique. On one hand, this is a professional that you hire to provide you with a service. On the other hand, it’s someone that you have likely built a somewhat close, trusting relationship with. So how do you handle a potentially hurtful situation without causing a ton of damage?
Address & Validate Your Feelings
While your first reaction when seeing yourself with a look that you do not like is likely to be one of shock, a rush of feeling may come soon after. The way we look is intensely personal, and the way that we feel about how we look has a huge impact on our self image.
It’s natural that you’re going to have an intense reaction to sporting a look that is not to your liking.
It’s likely that you you are reacting to not only the look itself, but also your feelings around getting the look.You may feel misunderstood and unheard, in addition to worrying about how long it will take to grow back. These are strong feelings and they deserve to be addressed and validated.
While it’s important to be upfront and honest with you stylist, this should take place before you address the issue with your stylist. Otherwise you run the risk of reacting and taking your feelings out on them. The first step in ensuring effective communication is to first do your own processing and then addressing the issue of the miscommunication.
Separate the Issue
Once you’ve identified and validated your emotional reaction, you can start to sort out what the concrete issue that you would like to address it. If you want to preserve the relationship with your stylist, this should be specific, so that they have the opportunity for repair. Try to see beyond how you feel about the look and work towards labeling specifically why you don’t like it.
Is it too short? Too light/dark? Too layered/not layered enough? Knowing what traits of your new style don’t sit right with you is the first step towards finding a solution. Your stylist wants you to be happy, if you aren’t, they want to know why and how they can fix it. However, they can’t even begin to assess the right course of action if all they have to go on is “I don’t like it”.
Respect your Stylist's Feelings
Think back to the last time you were the bad guy. How did the other person bring up their issue with you? If they said something along the lines of “You did _____,! How could you???”, you may have felt a little defensive.
Using self-focused words—or “I statements”— puts the focus on your feelings and opinion, instead of the other persons actions. This allows them the opportunity to react without first having to defend themselves.
“You messed up my hair!” is accusatory, “I feel like this is a lot shorter than what I asked for” is assertive.
Working Towards Repair
If your stylist values you as a client, they are going to want to make things right. If you’ve taken the time to work through the issue calmly and clearly, with respect for each person’s experience, you may be ready to talk through a solution.
If you have a clear idea of what you see as being fair reparations, present your idea to your stylist and see what they think. It may be that they are more than willing to do whatever you ask, in order to solve the problem. Or, since they have a level of expertise that you don’t, they may be able to offer alternatives.
Having a negative reaction to a cut or color doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship with your stylist, but you shouldn’t have to live with it either. By taking responsibility for your own feelings, respecting your stylists and working together towards and effective solution, you can work towards a stronger, more beautiful relationship.