Are you afraid of change? Ruth talks about how shaking things up can be good for you-and great for your clients.

Change is good. I keep telling myself this as I sit in my apartment surrounded by filled packing cartons, waiting for the movers to arrive. I'm leaving the Manhattan apartment I've lived in for the past 10 years and moving to Brooklyn. Although it all sounds good in my head, my heart is racing and, frankly, I'm feeling a little freaked.

 Ruth Roche
Ruth Roche

Change—and the fear it provokes–is something we stylists frequently encounter. I often hear from my own clients that the reason they've left their previous stylists, even if they'd been seeing them for years, is because they always give them the same thing, over and over. And one of the biggest frustrations I hear from stylists is that their clients always want the same thing. It's a catch-22: Clients are hesitant to ask for something different for fear of hurting their stylists' feelings, and stylists are reluctant to suggest a change for fear their clients won't like it. Regardless of who's afraid and for what reason, I really believe it's up to us stylists to take the initiative and suggest things that are appropriate, creative and refreshing for our clients.

For example, I had a client who, for an entire year, talked about going shorter. Every time she came in she would say, "I think I want to do it," then promptly talked herself out of it. I kept waiting for her to eventually say, "Go for it!" Finally, I realized she was never going to say that, and the next time she came in I said, "It's time! You're ready!" After about two seconds of hesitation she said "OK!" with enthusiasm. We did it, she loved it, and I learned a lesson: Now, when my clients come in, I take care not to say, "So, are we just trimming you up today?" That may be all they want or need, but it's up to us to pave the way for new things for them. If we don't, we run the risk of becoming the stylist they are talking about when they say, "My former stylist just kept doing the same thing. I want something different."

Although there's a fine line between keeping our clients evolving and scaring them off, it's not so hard to figure it out once you open the lines of communication. Learn to listen to what your client is saying, and what she isn't saying. Is she going through a personal crisis and thinks a hairstyle will fix the problem? This probably is not a good time for a big change—maybe a small one. Does she feel bored in general, and with her hair too? This could be a great time for a change. Is she on the fence? Plant the seed now for a change the next time she comes in. Picture references are great. Descriptive words that fit her personality help paint a picture that makes sense: easy-care, youthful, modern, sophisticated, fun. Listening, interpreting and adjusting your approach to fit the client and her needs that day is what it's all about. This also requires that you are there for her and her alone, and not thinking about the next client or the one you just had.

As we look back on 2005 and ahead to 2006, let's think a little bit about change. It's inevitable and scary, but necessary if we want to grow and stay motivated. Change brings new energy and sparks creativity. It's good for our clients and good for us too. Change is just plain good.

So when I think about what I am doing today, I am reminded that I must keep changing or I stop growing. Shaking things up is good. Your clients will thank you for it.

E-mail Ruth at [email protected]. To find out more about RARE education with Ruth Roche, visit, or call (866) RARE-NYC.