Friday, July 26, 2013

A Hair Stylist with More than Technical Skills

I found myself procrastinating.

I needed to get my hair cut but I delayed making the appointment because it took 40 minutes to drive to the salon where my hairdresser worked.

I was complaining to a neighbor about the situation, and she immediately recommended a young woman whose salon was just 10 minutes away. As soon as I walked in the door of my house, I called Catherine and made an appointment.

She gave me a great hair cut. In fact, my husband said it was the best cut I'd had in years.

But she wasn't just a skilled stylist.

What set Catherine apart is the experience I had. It started when she greeted me with a big smile and called me by name when I walked in the door.

The entire time I was sitting in her chair, she demonstrated a genuine curiosity about my life, my work and my outside interests.

Typically, when I meet someone new, I’m the one asking questions and probing to learn more about what makes the person tick.

Not this time.

Catherine reversed the tables on me, and I found it fascinating to be aware of what was happening while it was happening.

Each time I answered a question, she showed that she’d been listening because of the follow-up questions she would ask. The conversation followed a comfortable, natural flow. It never felt forced or strained.

While she clearly cared about giving me a quality hair cut, she was also focused on establishing a relationship.

During the moments when the dryer made conditions too noisy for a conversation, I found myself contrasting this experience with a hairdresser I went to more than 20 years ago.

I’ll never forget why I quit going to her after the second visit.

She didn't remember my name or even that I'd been there before. And she was distracted the entire time I was there. Everything about her attitude and actions conveyed that I didn't matter.

At the end of that session, I knew I would never go back, even though her hair-cutting skills were excellent.

When Catherine was finished, on the other hand, I was absolutely delighted. My hair looked great and I felt wonderful. She had made me feel special.

The result was not just a happy customer who will keep going back. She now has an advocate who will make a concerted effort to refer others to her whenever possible.

Just as my neighbor did with me.

Too often we’re so wrapped up in our own thoughts, problems, and upcoming events that we barely notice the people around us.

Catherine reminded me of the intangible payoffs that come when you are fully present with another human being and sincerely focus on understanding who that person is.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” - Leo Buscaglia

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