Encourage Conversation from Behind the Chair

By Liz Kline 


Face-to-face communication has inevitably declined due to the advancement of new devices and ease of connectivity. In our world as we know it today, we can do just about anything online through messaging and email. We don’t even need to pick up the phone and talk to anyone. Our clients can book an appointment from their phone and make a payment through an app; salons can send out text alerts to remind clients of their appointments. You get the idea. This has, in turn, caused social awkwardness and shying away from real face-to-face conversations. The ease of connecting with someone without even speaking has surpassed what we could have ever imagined. We have adapted to a world of exchanging information via text messages, emails, and social media and the art of in-person communication has come to a screeching halt. No matter how you want to look at it, communication is vital to our success as hair professionals. It is used to consult, determine outcomes, and garner relationships to form loyal clients. To be fair, there are clients who come to us to not have conversation. Their appointment is their time to relax, get away from work emails, and escape the busy shuffle of life—but for those who want to engage in conversation, here are ways we can increase our conversation skills. 

The other day, I walked into a beauty supply store to pick up some color and the girl behind the counter (we’ll call her Pam) asked me for advice: “Can I ask you something hairstylist to hairstylist?” I responded, “Of course!” She told me about her other job at a salon. She took a client for a wash, haircut, and style. The service took about an hour and no words were exchanged. Pam assumed the client didn’t want to talk because nothing was said other than the consultation. A week later, the client called back and talked to the manager about how this stylist came off as rude and didn’t care about her because she didn’t say anything, didn’t ask if she liked the result, and didn’t ask her if she was doing OK throughout the service. Pam explained to me that she felt very hurt by this and there was no intention of making this client feel the way she did. I could tell Pam was crushed by this. Who wants to hear that they came off a certain way when that was not the intent at all? I asked Pam if the guest seemed unhappy at all. She said, “Her hair looked beautiful! It was one of the best blowouts I’ve ever done! I was so concentrated on what I was doing, I didn’t realize I came off as rude.” This is an example of where we as stylists may get caught up in our work. But remember: Communication can be vital to our success. As our conversation progressed, I explained that even the littlest of small talk can do wonders for us behind the chair. Pam looked confused. I explained that some people don’t know how to open up and start a conversation. There are also some people who walk into a salon or barbershop and they are intimidated to be there. It is our job as professionals to take that initiative and start that conversation. We should make them feel comfortable and get them to open up. They sometimes won’t want to talk, and you can usually tell which ones want to keep to themselves. For others, just start asking some questions and see where the conversation leads you. You could see the light bulb go off in Pam’s eyes. She said she never realized that communication, verbal or non-verbal, are all cues that we can mean so much to a client. Even a simple, “How is your day going?” can mean a world of difference to those who need an ear to listen.  

Toward the end of our conversation, I told Pam to ask herself these questions: 

  1. Do you know what is happening in the world?   
  2. Has any crazy weather swept over a part of the country?   
  3. What’s the latest gossip with Hollywood movie stars?   
  4. Which football team is crushing it?   
  5. What’s the local news in the town you work in?   

These are all open-ended topics that can be brought up in conversation and won’t lead to a dead-end “yes” or “no” answer. Sometimes, we need to engage with our clients to make them feel comfortable and get them to open up a little so we can build a relationship with them. The best part: You may just get a loyal client out of it—or better yet, a friend.  

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