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Miss Conduct

Advice: How do I politely cut ties with my hairdresser?

My stylist is a friend, too, but my life has changed, and it’s time to move on.

How do I break up with my longtime hairdresser? Over time, I’ve moved, she’s changed salons, and she’s had to adjust her hours for family reasons. My own recent job changes made it difficult for me to continue being her client. As much as I hated to do it, I’ve already found another hairdresser closer to home. I know this is stupid, but I’ve become very friendly over the years with my old hairdresser, sharing things like kid and vacation news, divorce and breakup traumas, etc. We’re also friends on Facebook. How do I tell her? A note on Facebook? A card? Breakup flowers?

S.M. / Boston

Don’t feel stupid! It’s terribly difficult to break up with a stylist, or even to tell the person that you want to see other stylists occasionally. Contract lawyers, improv comics, committed polyamorists — I’ve known them all to become shy and inarticulate at the very thought of having a “relationship talk” with a hairdresser. I blame our evolutionary heritage. Primates were never meant to break up with those who groom us!

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Life got complicated when we left the caves and trees, though, and the groomers among us know this as well as anyone else. So sapien-up and talk to her. A stylist friend of mine offered the following wise advice: “End the business in a business way and feed the personal in a personal way.” Don’t ghost. Tell her that you need to move on, as a client, and the reasons why. Don’t be so apologetic and heart-stricken that she feels obliged to comfort you — people do this in romantic breakups often enough, heaven knows, and it’s terribly bad form. Tell her that you’ll refer anyone looking for a stylist in her area, and write an excellent Yelp review for her business. Also ask her if you can keep her number on hand for emergencies. What if your new stylist is out of town the week you have an unexpected interview or event? Always good to have a backup!

Flowers or a card would be a sweet gesture after the fact, according to my expert. Sending them as the breakup announcement would be overdoing it and making the situation more about your guilt than anything else. Sending them afterward conveys more clearly that “Hey, we had a great run as stylist and client, thank you for that, and I look forward to staying in touch on Facebook. Keep posting those sweet Minion memes!” Then continue the relationship as you would with anyone else — social media, checking in occasionally, what have you.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.

Need advice? Send your questions to Miss Conduct at missconduct@globe.com.
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