Rules of Engagement: Settling Differences in the Salon

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Rules of Engagement: Settling Differences in the Salon

One of the most aggravating things to deal with is trying to settle a disagreement with someone. Each party feels they are right, and often feel like they are not being heard by the other person. Clients can be argumentative, colleagues get snarky and bosses can be downright bossy at times. The only thing one can control is oneself when circumstances present a disagreement. Learning how to manage strong feelings while having a discussion or disagreement will help you see more clearly, and get to an acceptable resolution quicker without doing more damage to the relationship. 

In the salon, we work day after day under stressful conditions. Any conflict that should arise is magnified by the energy of the staff and the pets that are in various stages of fight, flight, avoidance and acceptance. It is important to remember that clear communication under these circumstances is of the utmost importance if you have any chance at all of keeping the stress level at a dull roar. 

Even on the best of days, when everything is calm, you may get that one panicked or overwrought client that throws everyone’s mood into a tailspin. A little practice and preplanning can give you the coping mechanisms to remain calm and diffuse the potential calamity.

When an event occurs, emotions are heightened and sharp words and residual feelings can affect everyone in the salon—as well as the comfort of the pets that we are caring for. Learning how to negotiate a win-win solution benefits everyone involved and strengthens trust between peers so that when another event occurs, the participants have more experience in helping to find common ground.


Here are some ground rules to remember when entering a discussion over a disagreement:

  1. Agree to take turns speaking and to try to not interrupt each other.
  2. Agree to call each other by first names, not “he” or “she,” or worse.
  3. Ask questions of each other for the purposes of gaining clarity and understanding and not as attacks.
  4. Agree to listen respectfully and sincerely try to understand the other’s needs and interests.
  5. Recognize that, even if we do not agree with it, each of us is entitled to our own perspective.
  6. Seek to avoid dwelling on things that did not work in the past, and instead focus on the future we want to create.
  7. Agree to make a conscious, sincere effort to refrain from unproductive arguing, venting and narration, and agree to use the time in mediation to work toward what is perceived to be the most constructive agreement possible.

Training yourself to actually listen instead of waiting for the other person to be finished so you can talk is one of the hardest skills to learn, but will pay dividends when you get it right. Be warm and attentive and show that you are listening. A genuine desire for a positive outcome will help win the day. 

When the other party does not follow the ground rules, a strategic break is a good way to help calm nerves and get the discussion back on course. These rules will help guide the discussion and avoid pitfalls like name calling, dredging up the past and hyperfocusing on points that have little to do with the main issue. 

One of the most important things to remember is that no disagreement is personal; it often depends on the mood of the people involved at the time. You always have complete control of your own words and actions. Sometimes it is best to refrain from engaging in a discussion gone wrong until tempers are cooled and the facts can be separated from emotion. 

Good communication is a skill that can be learned with practice and a calm mind. Learning how to come together to find solutions is always better than letting differences tear us apart. ✂️


Dana, Daniel. Managing Differences: How to Build Better Relationships at Work and Home. 2nd ed., MTI
Publications, 1999. 

Melamed, James. “Sample Mediation Ground Rules.”, Accessed 1 Aug. 2020. 

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