At the STC Canada West Coast chapter’s March program meeting, Takuro Ishikawa gave a Pecha Kucha presentation on conflict resolution. Although most of us enjoy watching others engage in conflict (novels and movies wouldn’t hold our interest unless there was some kind of conflict that the characters struggled with, whether inner or outer), we usually shy away from situations involving conflict and ourselves.
I have observed this tendency in myself, though the people in my life might find it hard to believe! And one area where I have tended to avoid conflict is when I go to get a pedicure at the salon, or when I’m getting a massage. Experiences that I have designated as pleasurable! I don’t want to deal with conflict or argument when I am supposed to be enjoying myself. This means it’s hard to tell the masseuse or pedicurist when she does something that hurts me. She’s supposed to be an expert, perfectly attuned to me and my needs, wants, and bodily sensations: she’s supposed to be good mom!
Of course this rarely happens, and there’s almost always something that occurs during a session that hurts or is at the very least uncomfortable. I left my most recent pedicure session with two injuries on my feet because the pedicurist was too rough and I didn’t tell her. She scraped my heel raw, scrubbing at an area where people usually have callouses. I didn’t actually have a callous there, so she was scrubbing my tender skin. By the time she hit a nerve it was too late, the damage was done. So why bother telling her? It would only cause tension. Then she dug at the corner of my big toe nail with a sharp object. It is still hurting two days later. But again, too late to tell her after she’s already hurt me.
So what is the result? Pain, and frustration. I wanted a pleasurable experience, and came away with injuries. Perhaps the pedicurist wasn’t present and playing close enough attention to what she was doing. I’d certainly like to place all the blame on her! But I also had a responsibility to let her know how her actions affected me, and I didn’t do it. I didn’t want the conflict!
In addition, every time I go to the salon, any salon, the pedicurist doesn’t cut my toenails short enough! EVERY TIME. They have been trained to do it a certain way, to a certain length. As a runner, I like to keep my nails very short. I explain this, but they think they know better than me. They argue about it. It will give me ingrown toenails if I cut them that short. NOT. It will cause callouses on the end of my toes without the nails to protect them. NOT. I have been doing it this way my whole life, and I know what I want! Basically, it is more difficult to do the pedicure if the nails are short. It is harder to file them, and it is harder to get the polish on without getting it on the skin as well. I wonder if this has anything to do with their reluctance to do what I ask. But it means every time I go, I have to have a discussion about it. And usually I have to ask them to cut them shorter, redoing their work. Or, I can avoid the conflict and leave without getting what I want. Which is what I sometimes do.
This last time, I cut my toenails before I went, so the pedicurist would just have to deal with what was there. This led to a 5-minute lecture on what was wrong with my nails being too short. Jesus christ, they’re my fucking toe nails!
This morning I called the salon owner to deal with the conflict once and for all. I told him about the injuries I sustained during my pedicure, and about the fact that every time I go I get an argument about doing what I ask with regards to toe nail length. He thanked me numerous times for giving him the feedback, said he would speak to his employees about doing what the “guest” asks for, and said next time I go I will get a free pedicure. This whole conversation took about 4 minutes, and was actually very pleasant.
I think the reason I go to the salon is because I enjoy the interactions with the owner! And maybe I’m repeating some kind of pattern of frustration where I keep hoping to have a “good mom” experience but don’t get it. I wonder what will happen next time! If it wasn’t for the offer of the free pedicure, I probably would just stay at home, enjoy my own company, and do it myself. Another way to avoid conflict!
In case any of you are interested in learning some new conflict resolution skills, Takuro will be giving a workshop for the STC in the fall. Keep an eye on the STC site for details.