No: A Tiny but Powerful Word


By ASCP Staff

One of the hardest words in the English language for estheticians to say to their clients is no. We are estheticians because we are caring, nurturing individuals, and saying no to clients goes against our instinctual, giving nature. However, if you don’t learn to say no, you may end up always feeling emotionally and physically drained and start experiencing career burnout. If your life is losing joy and your passion for skin care is waning because you’re overworked, the best piece of advice we have for you is to start saying no! You might think this sounds silly or just too simple to make a difference, but self-preservation is key when it comes to quality of life. Why do so many estheticians have a difficult time saying this tiny but powerful word? Most of the time, it’s because of fear.

What is it we fear? It might be that we think if we upset a client by saying no, they’ll find another esthetician. It could be the fear of losing out on the chance to make more money or missing an opportunity to see a new client. Or, because it’s in our nature to want to help clients, we fear we will let our clients down if we don’t always say yes.

But think of the personal consequences if you never say no. You will be working extra hours, maybe on your designated day off, bending over backwards for clients’ special scheduling requests to the point that you feel overwhelmed and drained of the passion you once had for skin care. You may also be neglecting your loved ones if you don’t have the time or energy to spend with them when you’re done working those long hours. If you end up feeling completely worn out, it will feel more like you’re failing than succeeding, even though you’ve said yes to every client.

Think of it this way . . . every time you say yes to something that may not be in your best interest, you will have to have to say no to something that is. For example, when one of your clients waits until the last minute, then pleads with you to do a leg wax after hours, you reluctantly agree to stay because you didn’t have the courage to say no. What are you giving up when you do this? You might miss taking your dog for a leisurely walk on your favorite path, enjoying your Pilates class, or enjoying happy hour with your spouse or best friend. Another possible consequence is that you haven’t had the chance to recharge your battery when you return to the spa the next day. You may not have the energy or enthusiasm to give to those clients who do respect your time and don’t ask for special favors. And the client who kept you late will never learn to respect your time and hours of operation if you keep giving in.

It's not easy to say the word no, but it’s the only way to prevent this downward spiral. If you’re a “yes” person, it feels uncomfortable to “reject” our clients’ wishes. But when we have a knee-jerk reaction of saying yes to avoid hurting our clients’ feelings or a potential confrontation with our clients, we will still have to deal with the consequences later. It takes effort to start training our brain to say no, but here are some strategies to help you to start using that powerful two-letter word more often.

Take time to process before you respond.

When a client asks for a special favor or to bend your typical protocol, take a deep breath and process your response before answering the question. It may be instinct to say “yes” before taking time to consider the effect that yes will have.

Consult a fellow esthetician.

Before you respond to a text, private message, email, voicemail, etc. from a client requesting something that you’d rather decline, ask an esthetician friend for their opinion. If they agree that the client is asking too much, it will give you more confidence to turn the request down. They may even offer to cover the request for you, giving you an easy out.

Know the worth and value of your time.

We all lead busy lives, and time is precious whether you’re working at the spa or relaxing with your family. If the client wants to come in after your business hours for microdermabrasion, think of the price for that service. Is that $80 worth being late for a date night or missing the chance to tuck your kids in before they go to bed? If you’re just starting out in skin care, perhaps that $80 service is worth more than just the price tag. Maybe the value you gain is worth rescheduling the date or saying goodnight to your children over the phone. You have to make the right decision for you. You could consider creating a policy that if services are done after hours, there will be a 20 percent surcharge added. Again, it’s up to you to know what your time is worth and when to just say no.

Don’t make excuses.

If you’ve decided that there’s no value for you in staying after hours or working on your regular day off, don’t make excuses. Don’t say, “Oh, sorry, my son has soccer practice tonight, so I really need to leave on time.” Making excuses won’t stop the client from asking again, and then you’ll need to make excuse after excuse in the future. You don’t need to provide an excuse; just politely say no and offer to book an appointment for them the next time you have an opening during business hours. Setting the ground rules right off the bat will encourage that client to book their appointments in a timely manner.

There are also other client requests that can cause an awkward moment. How about the client who asks, “Do I get the friends discount?” You might try to blame the spa owner, or say that your manager doesn’t allow discounting, just to avoid saying no. Rather than use excuses, you can explain that your prices are set based upon product cost, your time, and experience. Let them know you appreciate them and their business, but that you believe in the value of your service. If you give a polite, confident “no” the first time, you shouldn’t have to say it more than once.

Are you on the fence?

If you’re ever on the fence about your answer, it’s a whole lot easier to switch from a “no” answer to “yes” than the other way around. But if you do change your mind, be sure it’s your decision, and not the client trying to guilt you into saying yes. If the client starts in with, “My old esthetician used to . . .” or “The spa down the street will . . .” just remember, if the client is telling the truth, the other esthetician and spa accommodated this client’s request, but the client still left them to come to you.

Practice makes perfect, and saying no will get easier the more often you say it. It will improve your quality of life. Remember, it was probably one of your favorite words as a toddler!

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