Cut, color and conversation

Woman under hair dryerSome people think I’m a daredevil. No, not because I once hurtled myself out of a plane with just a parachute on my back, nor that I ate food from a street vendor in Mexico, and not because I left a secure job to start a business in the Great Recession. No, it’s that people gasp when I tell them I change hair stylists on a regular basis, and, not only that, I’ve also gone to new salons because of a Groupon coupon I purchased.

Apparently, it seems, a thinking woman just does not put her locks in the hands of a stranger.

I say phooey to that. That said, one coupon did lead to the present stylist I have seen for, hmm, about two years now. That’s almost an eternity in my book.

I have stayed with this stylist because she is really good at her job. She is very thorough and is focused on making sure I’m happy with my ‘do. And I always am. I also like that she doesn’t talk the whole time. She allows for silence. I appreciate this because sometimes I just like to relax and let my thoughts float by as I’m beautified.

Her only down side is she is not a great conversationalist. I was thinking about this as I sat in her chair yesterday for two and half hours getting my usual cut and color. She starts with the customary pleasantries, “How have you been?”, “Did you do anything for the long weekend?” etc., but then carrying on a conversation falls to me.

As an introvert, I’m not someone who easily shares information about myself unless someone asks me questions. But, I am comfortable with asking about other people. Eventually, however, I run out of things to discuss if the person isn’t sharing much or asking about me.

I was thinking how many opportunities my stylist misses to make conversation and get to know me. I have made several references to my business, but she has never once asked me about it. I tell her about trips Eric and I are going on, and while she always seems interested when I talk about them, she doesn’t ask about them the next time I see her. One time, I sent her a very appreciative thank you note and she didn’t mention it. It would have been nice to know she had received it when I saw her next. It feels like we start fresh every time I see her.

So, as I sat in the chair yesterday, I thought about what makes someone a great conversationalist. I do not profess to be a brilliant communicator, but I make every effort. I know showing a sincere interest in others is key. And to do that, you must ask questions and listen with curiosity. For example, if someone mentions they just got back from France, ask things like, “What was your favorite part of the trip?”, “What was the food like?”, “Where did you stay?”, “Would you return?”

By asking open ended questions – questions that start with who, what, where, when, why, how – you get the other person to open up more. This allows you to find something you have in common, which makes conversation easier.

The other part to being a skilled conversationalist is to remember the things you heard so you can ask about them when you next see the person. This is an area I often have to work at, so I cheat by writing notes in my Outlook Contacts. Doing that helps me to remember to ask about what we discussed when I next see that person. This is especially important for business owners, service professionals and sales people. My hairstylist falls under this category.

Perhaps she, like me, is not good at remembering some of those things she hears and wants to ask about later. She could keep files on her clients with notes about what they talked about, just as she probably keeps notes on the hair color she uses on them. Then, before she comes out to greet her clients she could review the notes and ask about the client’s bike trip to Montana or her new puppy.

If she did that with me I would appreciate her even more. It’s not a huge deal. As I said, she is a really good hairstylist and I do like not having to talk the whole time. But showing more of an interest in me and remembering the things we discussed would make her a top notch stylist that I might consider never leaving. Now that would be a first.

Does conversation come easily to you? What traits do you think make someone a good conversationalist? Are there techniques you use that help you to be a better communicator?


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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

1 Comment

  1. ArdenClise on December 16, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    SheLuvsShoes Yes, sometimes it is nice to just sit and be pampered and not have to focus on conversation. It is our little escape and I appreciate being able to just zone out.
    Good for you for keeping notes on the back of people’s business cards. That’s a really good practice to follow. You can then follow-up with them by inviting the person to connect with you on LinkedIn.
    Thank you for commenting.

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