Feeling drained? Tired? Overworked and burned out?
I have just the piece of advice for you, my friend! Just say no. It might sound over-simplified or silly, but the benefits of self-preservation, which begin by learning to say no, are unquantifiable. So why do hairstylists often have such a difficult time saying this tiny but powerful word? Quite simply, because of fear.
Fear of upsetting a client. Fear of losing money or missing an opportunity. Fear of letting someone down when we innately want to help. Fear of failure. But do you know what else you should fear? Upsetting yourself to the point of overwhelm and burnout. Putting in extra, unnecessary work to bend over backwards and still lose money or tarnish your reputation. Letting down your family and loved ones. Succeeding but being so worn down it feels like failure. Every time you say yes to something that isn’t in your best interest, it will force you to have to say no to something that is. For example, when you reluctantly agree to stay after hours to take a client who waited until the last minute to try to get in and never respects your business hours and you didn’t have the courage to say no, you are then forced to say no to tucking in your baby that night, or enjoying happy hour with your long-lost best friend, or spending time reconnecting with your spouse. By the time you return to the salon the next day, you’ve done nothing to recharge your battery and are beginning a new day without the energy to give to your clients who respected your time and didn’t ask for special favors.
Prevent this downward spiral and just say no. I understand it’s easier said than done. Saying no is a rejection. It has the potential to hurt feelings and it’s uncomfortable. To avoid potential confrontation and other uncomfortable feelings in the heat of a moment, often the knee-jerk reaction is to say yes and just deal with your own amplified negative feelings and consequences later. As with any habit of wellbeing, it takes some conscious effort and brain training to get comfortable saying no. Here are five strategies to help you say that powerful two-letter word.
1. You are probably so used to saying yes to your clients that it’s become your instinctual, go-to response. When a client asks for a special favor or to bend in your typical protocol, take a deep breath. Often the “yes” just flies out of our mouths before we realize what it really means. Take a breath and process your response before answering the question.
2. It is easier to say no when you know other people agree with you. Have at least one other person in your court. Before you respond to a text, private message, email, voicemail, etc. requesting something that you’d like to decline, tell a stylist friend about it. They’ll either agree that it’s beyond what you should do and give you the added confidence to turn it down or they’ll offer to cover the request for you and then you have an easy way out. Either way, it’s much easier to tell the client no.
3. Without a shadow of a doubt, know the value of your time. Sticking with the example we’ve been using, if a client requests an appointment outside of your typical hours, know the ticket price of that appointment. Is that $50 worth being late for date night or getting home after your kids are already in bed? If you’re still trying to build your book, perhaps that $50 haircut is worth so much more than just the price tag, so that plays into the value. I’m not saying what the right decision is for you. I’m just saying if you know the value of your time, you will more assuredly know where to spend it and have confidence when responding to client requests.
4. Don’t make excuses. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. If you’ve decided there’s no value in staying after hours for a client, don’t say, “Oh, sorry, my son has soccer practice tonight so I really need to go.” Then you’ll just need another excuse the next time the client asks. It leaves the door open for that client to ask you another time to stay late in hopes that it’s not a soccer practice night instead of making it a priority to book their appointments in a timely manner so you have availability. No excuses required; just politely say no. This can be applied to any uncomfortable client request. “Do I get the friends discount?” Don’t blame the salon owner, tough times, no ability to change in the POS system, etc., just to avoid saying no. “My prices are methodically set based upon product cost, time, education, and my experience. I appreciate your business and love ya, pal, but I believe in the value of my service.” Give a confident, definitive “no” the first time, and you shouldn’t have to say it again and again.
5. If you’re ever on the fence about your answer, keep in mind that it’s a whole lot better to be the hero and switch from “no” to “yes” than the other way around. Just be sure it’s a change based on value, though, and not something the client talks you into. When the client starts in with, “My old girl used to …” or “The salon up the street will …” just remember, if the client is telling the truth, the other stylist and salon bent over backwards for this client and the client still left.
Saying no gets easier the more you do it. It was probably among your first words as a baby and one of your favorites as a toddler. Hang in there— the power will come back to you.
Consultations & Communication
This book will touch on consultations (of course), keeping client records, saying no, and even some of the ways we’re inadvertently communicating to clients that it’s okay to be a “bad” client. Enjoy these articles, but then make sure to get to your local AHP Root gathering for real talk with fellow hair professionals about their consultation and communication best practices, and maybe even some shared camaraderie over client communication frustrations.