Hairdressers have a unique and special ability to develop relationships. Those relationships can be last a lifetime if they are healthy. If you look closely, you’ll notice that every healthy relationship has something in common: boundaries.
Boundaries give both people the opportunity to feel safe sharing their thoughts and feelings, which allows the relationship to grow close, naturally. This is true for all types of relationships, both personal and professional.
As a hairdresser, you have a unique relationship with your clients. If you are going to do your job well, a certain level of trust is required. Building that trust takes time, patience, and a firm sense of your own boundaries. While your relationship to your clients is technically a professional one, the bond between stylist and client is often a unique blend that blurs the lines between client, friend and even family.
Setting boundaries in a setting that is both personal and professional can be really challenging. This quick guide to creating simple, effective boundaries is designed to be a place for you to start exploring and discovering what feels right for you and your business.
What Boundaries are
Setting effective boundaries is rooted in knowing what works for you and what doesn’t. A well communicated boundary illustrates this clearly for yourself and others. In this sense, your boundaries are defined guidelines that inform people how to navigate having a healthy relationship with you.
Boundaries pull double duty by protecting both people in the relationship. They work to protect others from triggering a negative response from you, while at the same time protecting you from that triggering behavior.
For example, if punctuality is important to you, you may feel disrespected when clients show up chronically late for their appointments. You can draw a clear, firm boundary around your need to have your time respected by putting incorporating a “late charge” policy.
By communicating your expectations and the consequences of overstepping your boundary clearly you are not only protecting your time, you are demonstrating to your clients that your time is valuable, and to be respected. As long as they understand the expectation of being on time, and the consequences for choosing not to be, the responsibility is on them to act accordingly.
Boundaries around Conversations
Hairdressers and therapist have a LOT in common. Both professions are rooted in supporting their clients to feel their best. That being said, it’s likely that you spend a fair amount of time listening to your clients while you are crafting their new look.
Depending on the type of relationship that you have with that client, this can range from polite conversation about the “goings-on” in their lives (work, family, vacations, etc.) to more intimate talks about their hopes, dreams, and hardships.
While this all goes a long way to building a close, trusting relationship, it can also be incredibly draining. Emotional labor is real, folks, and having to hold space day in and day out for multiple peoples’ emotional outpourings is hard, hard work. Boundaries are an essential component to safeguarding yourself from burnout.
Topics that you may want to draw clear boundaries around:
- Political opinions
- Religious views
- Social Issues
Boundaries around Physical Space
As a salon professional, personal space can be hard to come by. While a certain amount of physical interaction is necessary for you to perform your job, you are absolutely entitled to enact firm boundaries around your physical space with your clients.
Just because you are required to handle their hair, doesn’t not entitle anyone to any additional physical contact. If you are not a hugger, handshaker, patter, or arm-squeezer, you can communicate this to your clients, in clear, respectful language.
One way to accomplish this it to politely refuse a physical interaction that you are not comfortable with, and instead offer an alternative. For example, if your big-time hugger client comes into envelope you in one of their famous bear hugs post appointment, you offer your hand instead and say, “thank you so much, I am not much a of a hugger, but I am so happy that you like your hair!”
the most important thing to know about boundaries is that they go both ways. Your clients should absolutely feel comfortable communicating their boundaries with you well. You can encourage this by asking “are you comfortable with this?” and making note of where their comfort zones begin and end.
As people change, so do their boundaries, and it’s perfectly natural to experience some expansion and contraction with where our boundaries lie. By staying in tune with our needs and reactions, we can revaluate our boundaries as needed, which helps to reinforce and grow those healthy relationships.
At the end of the day, having clearly defined boundaries protects both you and your clients and the relationship that exists between you. A healthy relationship between stylist and client starts with clear communication and mutual respect, and always results in something beautiful.