Boundaries are about protecting yourself, not an effort to change others.

Boundaries are about protecting yourself, not an effort to change others.

Photo: Carlos Valenzuela

Clients test you; even when they think they don’t, they still test you. Some clients push your buttons to see if you will enforce your boundaries. They make a tall request or express a differing opinion to see how it's received. Your response lets them know how to treat you. Once labeled a pushover, you become their go-to shoulder to cry on.

In the early years, I wrestled with balancing unusual requests and abusive behavior for years. If you wish to have a clientele, you want to please the client— but you soon discover that takers have no limits. You must set limits because you cannot or do not want to change others. Boundaries are about protecting yourself, not an effort to change others.

How To Enforce Boundaries

You establish and enforce boundaries with your actions, not your words. Behavior is the most effective way to communicate what is acceptable. Don’t lecture, argue, complain, or fight over how someone treats you. Instead, show your good side and how good it can be when they treat you well.

 Techniques for Setting Boundaries

  • Set expectations from the first moment and explain your policies to clients — pricing, late arrivals, appointment cancellations, and expected behavior.
  • Establish preferred ways of communication (phone, email, social media) and ensure that clients and coworkers know these choices. You can choose to ignore communications on your personal devices.
  • If clients have misconceptions about appropriate salon behavior, hair care, or styling, take the time to educate them in a friendly and informative manner.
  • Stress punctuality and respecting your time as indicators of respect. Establish rules for deliberately arriving late or keeping you waiting.
  • Clients may share secrets to see if you can be trusted to keep them confidential. Trustworthiness influences how you are treated.
  • Anything you lose out on by standing up for yourself and protecting your boundaries was not meant to be yours. Move on.

Communicate Your Boundaries

Have a subtle notice on your counter with important facts, pricing, forms of payment you accept, etc. Clarity creates a client-stylist relationship built on trust, transparency, and mutual respect. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of you needing to micromanage behavior. Your goal is to educate your client about the process of a salon visit with you and trust that you are working in their best interest within the defined limits.

Carlos Valenzuela is a bilingual writer and former global beauty educator with a master's in international business. His work on positivity and success appears in Modern Salon and his blog, He's the award-winning author of Letters to Young Carlos and its sequel, Camaleón: The Lost Years Living in the Closet.

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