For many, a trip to the hair stylist will be put off simply because of the fear of having to talk to a stranger during the duration of the haircut.
You take a seat in the big comfy spinning chair. A gown is draped over you. You instruct the stylist what you want done with your hair, and she (or he) begins her work. Suddenly, your hair becomes an afterthought—your mind is focused on conversing with the stylist. You must either engage in a rousing discussion, make small talk, or perhaps worst of all, sit in awkward silence.
You look around. The other patrons all seem to be having pleasant chats with their stylists. Why is it coming so natural to them but not you? Is it your fault or the stylist’s that you feel so uncomfortable? Were you off-putting and your stylist just decided to not engage with you?
You should probably follow the stylist’s lead
Many hair stylists are “people” people—they enjoy meeting others and making conversation. For a majority of stylists, it’s second nature to strike up a friendly personal conversation during the hair styling appointment. They do it all day long, person after person, after all! If you are lucky enough to land a stylist who takes the lead and simply asks you lots of questions about yourself, your day, your job, etc., just answer them!
Just as often, though, you can wind up with a stylist with great hair-cutting ability but poor personal skills. After asking about your hair, she may just keep quiet and go to work. If it feels awkward for you to be sitting in complete silence—especially while other customers nearby appear to be engaged in riveting discussions with their stylists—you might try leading the conversation and asking her a question. “So… busy day today?” is a great icebreaker.
This can be easier said than done, however. There comes a breaking point where you’ve sat in silence for so long that, in your own head, it would now seem even more awkward to start talking. Why now? Why didn’t you ask how her day was going fifteen minutes ago?
So what is to be done? How can you ensure the appropriate amount of conversation takes place? Does one simply state expectations up-front?
Tips for planning a haircut conversation
- Realistically, any conversation or lack thereof should happen naturally. Forcing conversation because you think that’s what is expected at a haircut is probably a recipe for awkwardness. What feels right to you?
- If you are worried about who will start or lead a conversation, maybe it’s best to make your expectations known up-front, if the stylist doesn’t do it first. “I never know how to interact with hair stylists. Do you prefer to converse with customers or just concentrate on styling the hair? I don’t want to distract you!”
- If you go into a haircut hoping for conversation, perhaps prepare some talking points in advance, or maybe even in the waiting area if time permits. The weather, an upcoming holiday, pets, or children are popular topics of conversation that most anyone can engage in at some level.
- Conversely, if you go into a haircut hoping to space out and sit in peace and quiet, only speak when a question is directed to you, and make your responses short. “So, are you doing anything for the Fourth?” “No.” The stylist should get the hint fairly early on that your interest in talking is zero.
- Wearing a clothing item with the name of your favorite sports team or band, your home state, or even your company logo is a great icebreaker. Give them a chance to find a common bond before you ever open your mouth! “I like your shirt… are you from Yukon Territory?” “I am!” “Eh, me too! I grew up just a few kilometers north of Yellowknife!”
- If you’re uncomfortable talking with a stylist, play a character. You’re no longer you, you’re Jeffaro Simms, a baseball scout from Iowa in town to scope out a hot new talent. Sometimes just pretending to be someone else can get you out of your comfort zone. Try it and see what you come up with!
My Hot Take
I always go into a haircut praying that the stylist is talkative and can lead the conversation. Why would I, as the customer, take the lead in making chit-chat with an employee? It’s their place to make the customer feel comfortable. I recently had a haircut with a stylist who said nothing the entire time, aside from instructions for me to turn or slouch. All the other men getting their hair cut were having lively conversations. I was left to wonder if I had done something wrong or rubbed her the wrong way.