If you are a sista in corporate America or know someone that is, the topic of hair is often one that is “casually” discussed during lunch breaks and hallway interactions with coworkers. Usually everyone, and I mean everyone, has a comment about it. If it’s not questioning the length, it’s the color, texture or the way “you look so different now”. If you’re anything like me, you’ve simply answered “yeahhhh” hoping not to discuss it further because don’t nobody got time to give YouTube hair tutorials for the free. This conversation is a very common for black women in a space dominated by non-blacks. Here’s some ways to integrate your coworkers with your hair, regardless if you rock protective styles, wear your hair natural or are in the process of transitioning from one state to another.
Be the one to start the conversation
This conversation is going to come up. It’s almost unavoidable, so take the lead and start it on your terms. One way to do this is to include changing your hair often as a fun fact when introducing yourself to your team. This way, you are letting them know you do this often and it’s just how you like to “express yourself”. This allows you to lead the conversation and add as little or as much detail as you see necessary. It also keeps you from having the same conversation with all 8 team members separably.
And, your hair?
Part of the reason our hair gets so much attention in corporate America (besides its volume, of course) is because we are constantly changing the style. After introducing changing my hair as a fun fact, I turn the tables around and ask about my coworkers' hair. I ask if they have ever changed their hair. This takes the attention of off me directly and opens the floor for hair style stories, as we all have them. This way I get to hear about Linda’s purple hair and Brent’s deadlock phase. As silly as it may seem, it puts everyone on common ground and creates a light environment that does not necessarily focus on my hair.
Oh and, don’t ask to touch it – establish boundaries
One of the most unacceptable violations of personal space is when someone touches your hair out of the blue. This is why it is better to establish it right away. I generally follow up my fun fact with a big pet peeve of mine, and that is people touching my hair. One of the reasons I set it up as a pet peeve is because it avoids the “but why?” question. Pet peeves are not supposed to be backed with reasoning or logic. It’s simply a feeling that requires no explanation. Which is exactly how I like to get this point across, without having to explain myself. Just don’t, okay? cool.
Silence speaks volumes
While these are some tips on how to go about most conversations that pertaining to hair in the office, there will still be comments that will catch you so off guard, you will not know what to say. In those situations, your answer is just that; Silence. Intentional or unintentional, people who do not understand black hair may make comments that are unacceptable. In those moments, you let non verbal communication do all the communicating. My personal favorite is two slows blinks. It gives them time to think about what they said and also let it be known, ‘I will not be answering that’.
Chin up, shoulder back, Queen
Regardless of where you are in your hair journey, it is still just one part of your life. It is important that you remember that hair does not define you. It is merely an accessory. Your role on any team does not change based on your hair style. How every you choose to rock your hair, do it with confidence, as that is the selling factor to anything great. So chin up, and shoulders back, Queen.
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