Episode 3 – Hair Salon Gives Clients the Silent Treatment
Learn why "the silent treatment" can be a good thing, especially for highly sensitive people.
When you go to a salon for services, do you feel like there is an expectation for conversation? If so, what if you are a person who does not enjoy idle chit-chat? Today, I will be speaking with Samantha Lacoste and James Ouellette who believe that everyone deserves a safe space. Even people who prefer quiet over talking. Samantha and James are co-owners of Samantha James Hair Design, a trendy hair salon in the heart of St. Boniface, Winnipeg that allows you to get the silent treatment if you are so inclined.
I invite you to listen and learn as we speak about:
- 00:05:15 - Creating the Silent Service
- 00:06:41 - What is a Silent Service
- 00:07:43 - Judgement free experiences
- 00:08:35 - Peaceful moments
- 00:10:00 - Client care
- 00:11:08 - Enjoying Silence
- 00:13:10 - Invitation to Just Be
- 00:14:50 - Psychologically safe places
- 00:15:30 - Impact on clients
- 00:18:00 - Public centered positions
- 00:19:10 - First Canadian Salon to offer Silent Service
- 00:20:05 - Implementing Silent Service
- 00:22:54 - Practicing how to talk to people
- 00:25:25 - Creating a safe space for clients
Learn more about and follow Samantha James:
This podcast is hosted by Clare Kumar. As a productivity catalyst, highly sensitive executive coach, and speaker, Clare cultivates sustainable performance in busy professionals so they can keep making rich contributions in all areas of life and achieve greater fulfillment. She inspires leaders, professionals, employees, and entrepreneurs to respect humanity and boost performance through marrying productivity and pleasure. After all, why shouldn’t you have fun while getting things done? If you're a visual learner, please watch this episode on YouTube.
Ready to learn more? Contact Clare here!
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This is a Crackers In Soup production
Clare Kumar: This is episode three of the Happy Space Podcast today. We're exploring why the silent treatment can be a good thing with the owners of Samantha James Hair Design.
Welcome to the Happy Space Podcast, a place where highly sensitive people thrive. Not only will we learn how to better navigate life with our superpowers. We'll find ways to better manage the challenges too. We'll hear from product and service innovators, space designers and leaders who believe in creating an inclusive neurologically, safe world. If you are highly sensitive or want to better understand and support someone who is then you are in the right place. I'm your host, Clare Kumar and I'm so very happy you are here.
As highly sensitive people, we're often really not in the mood for trivial, small talk or just noisy chit-chat. It's maybe not what we're interested in doing. And if, you know, 70% of us are introverted, it's really not where we're getting our energy and we might not be up for interacting. But when we go for services, like to the nail salon or to get our hair done often there's an expectation that there's going to be conversation as part of the experience.
Well, I want to introduce you to today's guests. We've got Samantha Lacoste and James Ouellette from Samantha James Hair Design in Winnipeg. And I'm so excited to have been introduced to them because they realize that that's not what every client wants for a number of reasons, not focused specifically on highly sensitive people. But as soon as I heard about their silent service, I knew it was something we needed to talk about. So they've offered actually on the menu, a service, which is silent and it really lets them know and all the staff know that you are going to prefer to not have to engage in that small talk. So stay tuned for an amazing episode where we dive into why you really can actually order this silent treatment.
Let me tell you a little bit about James and Samantha. They are partners. So Samantha and James comes from both of their names. First of all, Samantha Lacoste she's driven and motivated in everything she does. She completed a BA in business administration while working as a hairstylist. She also works as a Redken artist, educating other stylists and traveling across Canada, working backstage at hair shows, including Toronto's MasterCard fashion week.
She's really a big supporter of education, continually educating herself and her clients. You'll hear her talk about the importance of that in our discussion. And she's happy to have teamed with her friend and coworker James and they together created Samantha James Hair Design their very first salon.
And you'll meet James Ouellette as well. He started hair styling training right after high school. I love that, you know, people know what they want to do. I was always a little envious of that myself in high school. Along the way, he has been a two time finalist in the Contessa awards. He's done hair for photoshoots featured in Outwards magazine, which is an LGBT Winnipeg magazine.
He's been the creative director for charity hair fashion shows and was named one of Canada's top 10 bridal hair stylists in 2014. So he lived a short time in Montreal and later decided Winnipeg was his home. So I hope you'll enjoy this conversation where I explore with Samantha and James, why they came up with this service, why they decided to bring it to their clients and the impact that it's had on their business. You're in for a treat,
Today's episode of the Happy Space Podcast is sponsored by ClareKumar.com. Not only am I excited to spearhead the Happy Space movement. I love coaching busy professionals to achieve greater productivity and wellbeing. The two go hand in hand. I also adore taking the stage. If you are looking for an interactive engaging event to inspire and invite action, whether it be on successful work-life integration, sustainable performance, organization and productivity or expanding inclusivity, please visit ClareKumar.com and find out more.
Samantha and James, thrilled to have you with me today. I want to dive right into what prompted you to create this service, this silent service in your hair salon? What drove you to this great decision?
James Ouellette: Want me to start? Yeah. So we've always kind of had the core values of being a very inclusive and safe space.
And so Samantha actually went to London one day, England, for some training and she took a great course by another salon and they actually had this service and it was called a silent service. So when she came back, she was very excited. She goes, “Oh my God, they have this thing. And I think it's something that we really need to implement.” And so once we got to chatting and really dissecting what it was, we just said, yes, like we need to have this a part of our business because it falls right into what we're about.
Samantha Lacoste: So, yeah, and I think with that, like it's a no brainer type of thing. Right? It's so easy to implement. It doesn't cost you anything. It was just another aspect that we could add into the inclusivity of our space.
Clare Kumar: So take me back to that salon experience that you had in the UK and in Canada, we always have to qualify which London we're talking about. Right? So London, UK, you were over there for a course. And help our listeners understand, what is the silent service? What is it that you fell in love with in the concept? Tell us a little bit about it so we understand what it is you've actually implemented.
Samantha Lacoste: Yeah, so I mean, the salon that I went to was so unique, but essentially what this service is, is it is a service where you are free of the small chit chat. And so you don't have the pressure of talking during your service. And I know personally when I go to a massage, sometimes I don't like to talk and there might be a massage therapist that is chatting away. And it's that time where you just want to unwind and just relax and not have to think about anything and that is something that we could bring into the salon space. With that, I know there's been times as a stylist where you think like, oh, does that client want to talk? Do they not want to talk? You're kind of just–
James Ouellette: Sometimes I don't want to talk and you feel you need to right? Just to kinda fill the silence.
Samantha Lacoste: Yeah. So you're always kind of wondering, does that client want to talk? So you try to ask them a couple questions and then you're just not sure. Right? So this kind of just took away the pressure of talking, right? Or the awkwardness of asking them if they don't want to talk. So, with that it's a service that is free of small chat.
James Ouellette: Yeah. So it's, you know, it takes away the judgment, it's something you can ask for. It's on our service menu. So you don't have to ask awkwardly and be like, “Can you not talk to me?” There's no polite way to really say that I think like, no matter how you phrase it, I think it always kind of sounds rude to be like, “Can you not talk to me?” Right? Like, please. Right. Right. It’s really, it's a tough thing to bring up for whatever reason you might have behind it. So this way it just removes all judgment. It's just something you could book. Oh, my God. I was going to add on to what you were saying. And I lost my thought.
Clare Kumar: Well, it's on the menu. I love the concept. It's on the menu and just connecting it to our highly sensitive listeners out there or introverts or anybody who's been a little bit overwhelmed, as many of us have been.
It gives this opportunity to have a peaceful moment, and there's not many peaceful moments in our existence these days. And I like that because for highly sensitive people, for sure, we like deep and meaningful conversations and that can emerge over time. I know I've had the same hairstylist for I'm going to say 14 years straight now I've heard of this.
James Ouellette: That bit can be super intimidating, right?
Clare Kumar: So it's like, it can take time to build right? The relationship and at first you might not, you don't want that pressure or you might go gosh, I'm really going for the conversation in this by now. But even after 14 years, you know what, we have an ease of rapport with us. We can kind of see if one of us feels more chatty than the other and not. Right? But at the beginning, especially what a great way to put that as an environment, as an offer, without having any awkwardness about it. It's an invitation.
James Ouellette: Yeah. And I was going to say too, it lets the client control the conversation and the level of conversation they want to have, because we'll still do– part of our job too, is to talk about hair and what we're doing, obviously we're not just going to be completely mute and just chop your hair into a Bob, you know, without asking first.
Clare Kumar: Here's a bowl, see you later!
James Ouellette: But at least this way, you know, then if they decide to talk, they're welcome to it. So it's just now we know the starting level and then they can build upon that as much as they feel comfortable, you know? So we're still going to do our jobs and be professional and talk about hair and if there's products and stuff, obviously. But it'll just be about hair until you're ready to open the door to more conversation.
Samantha Lacoste: Yeah. I think that's the thing of it, it's not just for those who have sensory sensitivities, it's for those who are somebody who works a really high demanding job, it can be somebody who struggles with migraines, it could be a new mom who just needs like some quiet time, right? It's literally for anybody who just wants to just close their eyes and enjoy their service and relax.
Right? And unwind. And that's kind of where we add, in the explanation of the service is that we're still going to have the chatter around the salon, there still will be people who are talking just so you are aware, they'll hear the blow dryers, all that kind of stuff, but this is a time for you just to relax and not feel that pressure of talking with your stylist, just a time to enjoy the silence between you and your stylist. And that's kind of the unique thing with it too, is that we have had a lot of people book this service, but a lot of them still like to talk during their service. So it's funny when we were starting it not really knowing what this whole service was and we're still kind of exploring it and we'd have a client come in and they had booked the silent service and they start talking and you're like, should I talk back? I don’t know what to say. So you're kinda like, “Oh”, but what we learned through this process is that it's a way for them to, like James said “To control the conversation”, right? It's on their terms. So if they want to talk, they can, if they don't want to talk, they don't have to, it's really up to them so that they have that control over it because sometimes people feel this pressure to talk about how is your day? Are you going on any trips? Are you doing this? Or that? So you don't have to have that pressure with that and you can just do what you like.
James Ouellette: And even for repeat clients too, who knows what's going on in their life. They may have suffered a loss or like are really stressed at work and they might need time. And you've known your styles for 14 years, but who knows? You can go in one day and say, you could have had a really bad day and you just need time to sit. And so this way you could book something like that.
And then she knows, okay, you know, she needs some time to herself today. So as much as it's for new people coming in, even repeat clients, this gives them the option of, “Oh, I don't need to get into everything.” You know, It's kind of weird, I've had quite a few clients over COVID that they've gone through some really big divorces of 30 plus year relationships and some are willing to talk about it and some aren't and I could, you know, I know them well enough to tell not to dive into it with some of them, but I think, you know, this is a nice option for people to say, “I'm going through some stuff I don't want to talk about it. I'm just here to kinda be for a minute”. Right?
Clare Kumar: That's exactly what was coming up for me. It's an invitation to be, instead of be responsive. And we're having to respond to so much throughout the day. Where are the invitations to be? This, it's a real mindful opportunity and a gracious invitation that you've made. I love how you've learned through the process that people come in and some of them still choose to talk. So in the menu when you talk about offering this, do you deal with that at all? Do you talk about this client control? “We're still going to talk to you if you want to talk, but it's really up to you.” Do you address that at all? Or do you just let it naturally evolve the way the client wants?
James Ouellette: I think at first we didn't cause we were still learning, but now we kind of just remind them that it's not that we're not going to talk to you. We're not ignoring you, it's just that–
Clare Kumar: That even if they book the silent service and on that day, something happened and they're super chatty that's okay. Right?
James Ouellette: Yeah. And it's funny too, because sometimes clients will start to talk to each other. And that's one thing with COVID it's been a little different now obviously because we have barriers and stuff, so it's a little more difficult. I remember, I think there were two people that had a silent service and then by the end of the service, they were chatting up and talking to each other the whole time. But then I think it was just because they both felt comfortable or whatever the case, you know? So it's just kind of funny how it happens sometimes that I think they feel comfortable knowing that they don't have to, but then in that sense of ease, they open up more.
Clare Kumar: You've created a psychologically safe space. So if then people are more at ease, there's probably a more natural connection that's going to come out of it. Because it's interesting, we look at open concept offices, for example, and the thought was, “Well, people are going to be bumping into each other and talking.” And in fact it shut down the number of interactions people were having because we feel too exposed. So it's interesting what the psychological safety and the neurological safety ends up doing for the individual. So what impact would you say it's had on either specific clients or on your business as a whole? Can you talk to that a little bit?
Samantha Lacoste: Yeah, I think that it's had a lot of recognition throughout the city and I start to see more and more salons start to pick it up and whether they have it on their menu or it's just something that they kind of talk with their clients saying, would you like a silence service today or not?
So, I think it’s becoming a lot more recognized and especially with a lot more talk about mental health. That conversation is becoming so much more prevalent that these little things are really starting to come up. So I think that for us as a salon it's changed the way that people view services. It's changed the way that people book services. Just knowing that there is that option, it creates just more of a safe space and that's really what it is.
Clare Kumar: So with no explanation required. Right? Well, it's normalizing. That somebody might want to have a peaceful experience. Wow.
Samantha Lacoste: And that's how it is.
Clare Kumar: Exactly. And this is what this podcast is about to a large degree. It's to inspire businesses, to say, “Wait, how can I design and create services and products and spaces with sensitivity in mind?”
And I remember, we talked before this interview just to prepare for it. And Samantha, you said I think you had a reflection on your own desire or need for something like this. That, “Oh”, you would like to be able to have this option.
Samantha Lacoste: Yeah. And that kind of goes back to like my experience being in a massage studio and it makes a difference, just not having to have that pressure of talking. And I know that I have had certain instances where there's somebody talking to me during a service, and even actually there's a lot of times I go to a nail salon too and they start talking to me and you know, we're face to face so it's a little bit easier to do so, but I'm just like, I talk to people all day long. You know, I go home to just be in my own space and if I go to do another service, yes there's sometimes where I am more chatty, but a lot of times I just want to sit and just be. That's really what it is. So, especially when you're in a job with the public, it's not something where you're talking all day and then you go and you have to talk more. And I know I've talked with some stylists that I used to work with years ago and they were talking about going to their kids' soccer game. And they're just like, you know, “all the moms start talking”. She's like, “I just want to sit there and watch my kid play soccer”, you know and that's the reality of our job.
Clare Kumar: You raise a great point because there's knowing each individual's daily construct. So my love goes out and he's working with people daily as a first responder and so the team was always there. And on a busy day he's not looking to go out and go run around the city and do something he's like, “I just need to restore and recover”. And for me, I work at home by myself, largely this is like a highlight of my day talking to you today. Right? And I'm like, “let's talk, let's go do something”. So understanding where people are, especially in what you do and being open to dancing with them in a way they're looking to interact, I just think it's such a rich gift and I want that to be something that more people are conscious of. So, you mentioned you think you were the first salon to bring it to Canada?
Samantha Lacoste: Yeah, that we know of.
James Ouellette: We didn’t do an extensive nationwide search or anything, but yeah.
Clare Kumar: But in Winnipeg, we're talking to you based in Winnipeg. And you said you've got the sense it's spreading.
Samantha Lacoste: Yeah. When we first had heard about it from this salon I started Googling as much as I could of silence services within Winnipeg or it within Canada. And I couldn't find any salons that had it on their menu. So whether they were doing it in their salon just as a face-to-face, saying, “Would you like this to be a silent service?” I don't know. But nobody had it on their menu as an option. And I think that that is something that makes it so much easier for people to be able to choose that option. And again, it's the conversation that's being had. Right? People know that they can come to our space and that we offer that. So I think it's so important to have it on your menu as an option so people know because we have had people come into our salon, new clients, who came to us because we had this service because they have never gone to a salon before because they have so much anxiety about coming in and having the pressure of talking. And we don't know if you're not somebody who struggles with mental health or somebody is more of an introvert. You don't understand, you can't empathize with that right? Because you don't understand what those people are going through. So to have the options for people to do that is so important. So going back, yes, I think we were the first people in Canada to be able to offer it. And now seeing the conversation being had more we are noticing a few more salons offering the service. And I think to any salon out there who is thinking about doing it or any business really? It is so easy to implement and it doesn't cost you anything.
James Ouellette: It doesn't cost anything. It's just an extra line on your website saying that you offer it.
Clare Kumar: Tell us a little bit more about the implementation, cause I think this is a super powerful point. Number one, it's not costing you. You've put it explicitly on the menu, but you mentioned earlier to me that training the employees to understand what's involved here and the learning as you go. Share a little bit more about that journey.
James Ouellette: Yeah. Well for implementing it. You know, you really want to have a deep conversation with your staff and say like “You, you really can't think of it as I'm here to make money through these people”. Like that's not what it's about. It's about creating a safe space for people. So it's not just saying, “Yeah, we offer this and I'm just not going to talk to you.” It's like, “No, we have this option for you because we understand that you suffer from either some social anxiety or migraines or any kind of neurosensitivity.” It's about understanding people, not just saying, “Yes, we offer this”. Right? So we really had a deep conversation with our staff just educating about. And we ask them too, like what they thought. If this is something, because we do have some staff members with anxiety, you know. And I think especially anxiety issues, I know I have developed some, I know we talked about this before, how we're like, “Oh, that's what that is.”
Clare Kumar: You know, anxiety has grown. Especially in the younger population where texting is the mode of choice, picking up the phone and even having conversation is like “Who does that anymore?”. Right? So using our words and voices is foreign in a lot of cases.
James Ouellette: Yeah. And, I think for a lot of people that it's practice, you know, when I got into this career I had to teach myself how to talk to people because I'm not– as much as I like going dancing and that kind of thing. I am kind of an introvert at home and I'm a little more private. So for me to just start a conversation with a stranger, it is like I have to put on– I have to talk myself into it. So, you know, it takes a lot to do that. But this, I think people are realizing that it's okay. Not to like open up entirely to everyone and I can be like a little, you know–
Clare Kumar: You're making me think of something though. I'm wondering if there was like an introvert to introvert moment here where you can get, like, I love not to talk through all my sessions, so maybe all those clients should be coming to me.
James Ouellette: Well, and I was going to say too, like, kind of from a selfish perspective when I'm working, I work better when I'm not talking to people, I love chatting with my clients and we have a great time, but at the same time I'm going to work a lot quicker and more efficiently if I'm just focusing on what I'm doing. Right? And that's just, because I'm not multitasking. So from that side I still do great stuff even when I'm chatting, but it just takes me a little bit longer because then my attention is split right, between conversation and work.
Clare Kumar: You're so speaking to my productivity coach heart right now, because multitasking can get you. I can imagine if it went sideways in a haircut, that would be bad.
James Ouellette: It’s not to that extreme.
Clare Kumar:Well, it wouldn't, but to your point, you're going to slow down to make sure it doesn't. Right? Because you've gotta attend to one thing and then you come back to the haircut, so for sure, it's going to take time. So yeah, there is an efficiency angle here too, but I'm very sensitive that's not why you did it.
Samantha Lacoste: Yeah, so with going kind of back to the implementation part of it. I think that a very important part of it is, especially depending on what your salon environment is. Where we're a teaching salon, so, you know, we do have some staff come over to some stylist and watch what we're doing, ask questions, or, you know, we can kind of go back and forth and chat around the room, but we do it in a very little secretive way. We have a different cape that the client wears so that they know.
James Ouellette: It doesn't say “Silence Service” you know, “Don't talk”.
Clare Kumar: Doesn't say “STFU”, no it doesn't. Ok.
Samantha Lacoste: Of course I wanted to put like “Shhh” on it or something. Yeah. But, no, we just have a different color.
Clare Kumar: Not the monkey when their ears covered? So it's interesting, because this is bringing up how humor could have a role or not. Right? But you're also yeah, oh my gosh, there's a whole discussion actually.
Samantha Lacoste: And that's exactly it right? We talked about having like “Quiet Time'' or something kitchy on it. But the reality is this is somebody who's coming to space to feel safe. Right? And they don't want to be on display that they're the quiet client.
Right? So, we have a different colored cape that they can wear so that our staff knows that they're not going to come over and start to converse with that client. They're going to give us our space so that they know that this is our quiet time, or this is a silent service.
James Ouellette: And we're not going to tell you the color.
Clare Kumar: But I love that. And so it's interesting, right? Because there's something in England that I've seen, there's a lanyard with sunflowers on it, and you can wear that to signify an invisible challenge. And I talked about that in a group recently to get their feedback on it. And there were some people who just said, “Oh my gosh, in certain situations, for me, when I'm traveling, I would really love to wear that because I don't want to have to explain everything. I would love to have a visual cue that says, I really need to go sit in the quiet room and then come to the lineup because if I have to stay for two hours in the lineup, I'm going to be completely depleted.” And there were other people that were just absolutely averse, very strongly averse to having any kind of visible designation of difference and so it's very, it's a very personal thing. So again, you're being sensitive and I just like sharing so hard because you've embedded sensitivity in your thoughtfulness about how you invite clients to engage to their sensory experience, to their emotional experience and I think you can serve as inspiring role models to all the businesses out there. So listeners please, spread the word about Samantha James Hair Design and this silent service ask for it in your salon if it's not there if you would benefit from it, be brave to have that conversation, talk to the manager and say, “Hey, I heard about this service and boy that would've really been helpful for me today”.
So there are ways that we can spread this encouragement to have a more tender world and to have more of these silent places or calm places we're invited to be, rather than be responsive. So, yeah, I just want to applaud you just deeply from my heart. And is there any last thing you would like to say to an owner that's considering moving towards greater sensitivity in their business?
Samantha Lacoste: Yeah, I think that we were kind of having this conversation earlier, is that with any type of new service or new offering that you have within your space, is really just educate yourself on it. Because if we don't educate ourselves on it, we don't know the full extent of it and we might make mistakes. Mistakes are okay to make, but if we have a deeper understanding of these things, we can offer it in a better and a more efficient or different way. So I think that no matter what you are doing within your space just really educate yourself first so that you know the reason behind why you are doing what you're doing and that's really the important part of it. Yeah. It's not about making money. I mean, making money is great, but it's about really understanding the why behind what you're doing.
James Ouellette: Money comes, right? Like if you're willing to put yourself out there and do something different and you know, be part of the solution, then you'll be rewarded in the end in many ways. Right? So, and I think for people wondering how to implement it, you just have to do it, you know, like you just gotta say, “Okay”. And ask your clients, ask your patrons, ask your staff like, “Hey, is this something we need in our space? Is this something that would make us work better and be better in, in our environment? Right? That's what it's about. So I know, I think our long term goal is to actually have a private area. So right now we're a smaller space, so it is all open, but eventually we would like to just have a separate suite for people with sensory sensitivities.
Clare Kumar: Well, you also mentioned space, you also mentioned cultural presence too, right? And so that's another one. I mean there's so many reasons for having sensitive treatment, whether it's a genetic, a temporary situation or perhaps a cultural comfort to having greater privacy. And also you mentioned people going through treatments or having hair issues, hair thinning, hair loss, like there's so much,
James Ouellette: That's a really big conversation. So, you know, it's tough to talk about and, I know, so right now it is something we are going to be offering soon, we're trying to book them in when we're kind of closed. Not actually, but just like when there's fewer people in the salon, just so that they can feel more comfortable talking openly about it. Right? Because it can be a very touchy subject for a lot of people.
Clare Kumar: Our hair is a big part of our identity. I know I spent a couple more minutes on mine today knowing I was going to be talking to you.
Samantha Lacoste: Love it.
Clare Kumar: So, Samantha and James, I just want to thank you once again for joining me and being an inspiration to other businesses. I want to follow your journey. In the show notes we'll have exactly how you can find out more about Samantha James Hair Design and see what they're doing and get some ideas for what you might want in your service interactions out there and if you're a business owner listening, think about what you could do.
James Ouellette: Yeah. Well, thank you for having us.
Clare Kumar: This is awesome to see both of you. Thanks so much. Thank you.
Thank you so much for listening. You can find all of the Happy Space Podcast episodes over at happyspacepod.com. That is also where you'll find a link to our online Community. Please leave a review over at Apple Podcast, Spotify or wherever you tune in. And if you like what you heard, please share. After all, doesn't everyone deserve a Happy Space?