One of my best friends, Sharon, is a hairdresser. She is not a normal hairdresser. She’s a big-shot hairdresser in Los Angeles. And one of the most important moments in my financial life was when I moved from client to friend — I started saving $100 on a haircut and $150 on color because she did it for free.
Sharon has two or three clients going at any one time, and it’s amazing to watch her make everyone feel like they are the only one. After all, that’s a lot of what they are paying for. To listen to their problems. Sharon says that everyone comes to her to solve a problem. They say they are coming for their hair, but it’s her job to figure out what their real problem is.
As the self-proclaimed queen of delegation, I sat down in Sharon’s chair for years and told her to do whatever she wanted. I always had the kind of hair people comment on. I figured that she’s the expert, not me, so why should I tell her what looks best?
Besides, she knew me well enough to know that the problem I always wanted to solve was how to be less boring. Left to my own devices, I would wear the same thing every day and never take my hair out of a pony tail.
Sharon specializes in the nutcase client, and people actually send theirs to her. Sharon tells great stories about the people who come back three days later and say, “I think you cut one of the hairs in my bangs too short. Can you fix it?”
Sharon is great at dealing with these clients because she knows it’s not the hair that’s the problem. It’s always that other thing.
This was always interesting to me until the day that I became the problem client. It was when I had just closed a round of funding from a prominent venture capital firm, and I had spent weeks being the youngest and the only woman in the room. I was feeling like maybe I was somewhere I shouldn’t be. Maybe they’d wake up and say, “What about her? What’s she doing here?”
So I told Sharon I didn’t like my hair and she had to do it over. “I need it to be more conservative,” I said.
She said, “You can make up for that with your fifteen pairs of black loafers.”
“No, really,” I said, “Can you take out the red highlights?” And then, it happened: I pulled out three hairs and told her, “If you could just fix these three hairs. That would be okay.”
So now I’m going to tell you about being a nut case. Watch yourself. Because some people get migraines when they are under too much pressure. And some people become other peoples’ migraines.
There is no point in being a pain just because you’re stressed and nervous. Recognize that you’re under pressure and misplacing your anxiety. Give the people around you a break. Anyone can be fun to work with when life is going along perfectly. The best people to work with are consistent, even when they are a wreck – that’s the real test of how well you manage your stress.
If you work with someone who is a terror under stress, pretend you’re a hairdresser, and look for the underlying cause. And remember that Sharon calms those nutcases down by being a good listener. Don’t underestimate listening as a tool for keeping the nuts in their shells.