12th Man Barbershop - talk to your barber

Time to tell your barber how you're really feeling

Perhaps it's time to tell someone how you're really feeling, starting with the barber.

Don’t say ‘man up’, do say ‘that sounds tough’.

If you’re feeling sensitive the last thing you need is a thoughtless comment if you’re trying to talk.

But knowing what to say – and what not to say – can be difficult for some of us.

Barber Steve Bunn and his team at Croppers men’s hair salon in Norwich are highlighting 12th Man training, an initiative from The Outsiders project in Norfolk which teaches how to help rather than hinder someone who may be having a tough time.

The team, among other salons in Norwich, has been trained how to listen to their clients who may be having more than just a bad day.

“We are not psychologists, we want you to come and enjoy the barber shop, but we are here to listen if you want, we are a friendly listening ear,” says Steve.

The training looks at how to help men feel their worries are validated, without being patronising or intimidating.

“Lots of questions can be too probing. The ability to talk sensitively without saying the wrong thing is what it is all about,” says Steve.

The team, among other salons in Norwich, has been trained how to listen to their clients who may be having more than just a bad day.

“We are not psychologists, we want you to come and enjoy the barber shop, but we are here to listen if you want, we are a friendly listening ear,” says Steve.

The training looks at how to help men feel their worries are validated, without being patronising or intimidating.

“Lots of questions can be too probing. The ability to talk sensitively without saying the wrong thing is what it is all about,” says Steve.

The team is emphasising the training as part of Norfolk County Council’s Menkind initiative, a campaign to encourage men to take their health seriously.

Menkind’s ambassador is former Norwich City footballer Darren Eadie, who has spoken candidly about his own mental health and the time when he struggled with his own thoughts.

Barber Steve says the 12th man training had taught him a lot about empathy and how people end up in different situations, and also how to recognise if something isn’t quite right with people they knew.

“Barbers have a lot of regular clients, and when you have known someone for a long time you may spot if it seems as if things are not going well,” he says.

Along with city barbers including Blades, Truman’s, and The Den, the Croppers team says obviously men come to the barbers primarily to have their hair done, but knowing they could chat properly was helpful

“The training showed you how to talk if people want to talk and how to expand the conversation,” Steve says, explaining that barbers are easy-going environments so if men wanted to talk, they could.

Sharing his training, he says it’s important to not judge and to be as objective as possible about someone’s situation.

“Being decent to people is a hugely helpful thing,” he adds.

It means not saying ‘forget about it’ but saying ‘it sounds very hard at the moment for you’. It means not saying ‘anyway, did you see the football’ but saying ‘I think a lot of people feel like that’.

It means not saying ‘don’t worry about it’ but saying ‘I’m here to listen whenever you want.’

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Eastern Daily Press, 29 November 2018