She Said/Then He Said: The Hairdresser Conundrum


An advice blogumn by Andy Allen and Kalimba Bennett

Dear She Said/Then He Said,

What is a graceful way to shut down a conversation without appearing rude? I love my hair stylist, and don’t want to go through the trouble of finding another one. But she wants to talk—ABOUT NOTHING—for the whole hour. It’s exhausting and makes me want to smash my face in her cutting mirror. Pretending to read Radar Magazine does not deter her.


Sick of Small Talk
Austin, TX


SHE said:

Dearest Sick of Small Talk,

I don’t know a soul that hasn’t encountered a Chatty Cathy in a hair salon. Doesn’t your hairdresser see the magazine you bury your head into the second she opens her blabber mouth? The truth is this – No, she doesn’t.  And … she never will.  She just loves talking too much and she doesn’t care if you like it or not.

Now, you can keep smiling and nodding while the voice inside your head is screaming “SHUT UP!!!!!” or you can try a technique I call Painful Honesty aka “saying what’s on your mind.”

The “pain” part is on your end because it’s often so hard to say the thing we are thinking.  But PH doesn’t require rudeness it just requires expressing honestly what people might not want to hear. There’s a difference.


Stylist: What do you think about this Sarah Palin character?
You: I’m not paying you to spit in my hair, I’m paying you to cut it.  Now, shut it and put those scissors to work, bitch!

Now Painful Honesty at its finest after the jump:

Stylist:  What do you think about this Sarah Palin Character?
You: She’s … okay… listen, Cathy.  I have —
Stylist: She needs a make-over.
You: Cathy, I’ve really been looking forward to coming here and having some quiet time.  Would it be okay if I just read my magazine while you work your magic?

Even though Cathy will be agreeable, it will be awkward at first.  Cathy will begin to wonder what her mouth is for if not for talking.  That’s Cathy’s problem.  You stick with it.  You asked for what you wanted without putting ANY blame on her.  That’s the key.  In fact, you even included her in the decision making process and told her she’s a magic maker.  Genius!  Now Cathy feels like she’s gifting you your silence and you get to read your Radar in peace.  Next time you’ll probably have to practice PH again…you know Cathy!  But, it won’t hurt as bad because you’ve already set a precedence for asking for what you want.



Then HE Said::

Dear Sick of Small Talk,

I have bad news for you. Expecting your hairdresser to be quiet throughout the duration of the hour you spend together each month is not acceptable to me.

You’re asking me to give you a non rude way to do a very rude thing. Why would you want to silence another human being? She is not a robot with two buttons on her, one labeled “conversation,” and the other labeled “no conversation,” depending on your mood. Your hairstylist is a human being, trying to get through her work day and performing a great service for you while she’s at it. As far as I know, a hairstylist who gets it just right, every time, is a hard thing to find.  Also, she’s already at her job, so why make anything worse for her by asking her to conform to the way you would like her to be?

Enduring her shallow conversation is part of the price you have to pay both for having a great hairstylist and also for leaving your house and going out into a public place and interacting with another person.  Human beings are not perfect.  If you don’t want to deal with their imperfections, you’ll have to learn to cut your own hair.

I’m sorry, but I won’t assist you in finding a clever way to manipulate her into silence.  If I were you, I would take a more active role in the conversations that you have with her and learn to steer them in directions that are more satisfying for you.  You certainly have that right.

I think that if you do this, then one of two things will happen…

1) You will find yourself enjoying her company, or

2) it will become obvious to her that she is not compatible in conversation with the real you and she will engage you less in the future.