Leader: Salon sympathy is potentially powerful

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it is one of those issues guaranteed to divide opinion in any room. Do you like to chat with your hairdresser?

For some the chance to catch up with your crimper and shoot the breeze is an important part of the beauty ritual. A visit to a friendly salon can be a social event as much as a practical appointment, a chance to pick up some handy tips and simply have a blether. At its best, it can be fun, and therapeutic.

Others prefer to savour silence in the salon, feeling the extended social interaction with someone they don’t know well is just a little bit awkward. There are, after all, only so many times that you want to talk about your holiday plans.

The way in which Waverley Care and Relationships Scotland have recognised the unique place which the hairdresser has in Scottish life is an inspiration.

These days many of us don’t enjoy the same support networks in our neighbourhoods that previous generations took for granted. Families tend to spread far and wide, old friends move on and sometimes there are few people in our day-to-day lives whose ear we feel we can bend. Sometimes there are plenty of people near at hand, but we are reluctant to off-load on those closest to us, fearing our worries will be a burden to them.

In these circumstances, someone who can really listen is priceless. Listening, properly and intently, is a skill that is often underestimated, but it is a highly important one. Sometimes a stranger, or relative stranger, who can do that is just the person who can offer most help.

This isn’t about interfering in other people’s lives, but being ready to be a “good neighbour”. Sometimes those who are trained by the scheme will be able to direct people to sources of help.

But the real key to the 
Muwumba project is that it is training people to listen properly to others – and that can be a very powerful thing.