Is there anyone who hasn't had the experience of getting a haircut that just makes you reach for the nearest hat? It's a terrible feeling, especially if you were growing your hair for a particular cut, and now you have to start all over.

To make sure you get that great cut you're after, you need to learn how to talk to your hair stylist.

A hair stylist is just a person - not a mind reader. So first off, you need take the bull by the horns and work hard to be clear and direct. If you're ready for a big change, say so. If you're growing your hair out say so as well. Say so. Say so. Say so.

A picture is priceless. Even if it's not completely, exactly what you're after, it's a good starting point for you and your hair stylist to communicate. If you can swing it, try to talk to her about it before she puts you under the sink for a wash. That way you can show her with your own hands in your own hair - "this here shorter . . . watch out for this weird cowlick I have).

When showing her your picture, be sure to talk about . . .
* What you like about it
* What you don't like about it
* What worries you may have about it
* What ways you'd like to "tweak" it (bangs a little longer, for example)

Take your picture with you to the stylists chair, and keep referring to it for reference.

We all have little quirks about how we want our hair. Sometimes the haircut that you hate would've been fine except this one part around the ears or what have you.

So if you just HATE straight across-bangs you should say that EXACT PHRASE to her. Specifically. Or if you REALLY don't want layers, make that CRYSTAL CLEAR. Establishing what you simply cannot live with under any circumstances will ward of some disasters.

If by chance you don't have a picture, but there's someone famous you can think of who has a similar do, try that. Likewise, if you see another person in the salon who has something you like, point it out. The more information, the better.

Hair stylists have their own language. If you can master some of the more common terms, it will help you to get the cut you want. Here are some examples and my attempt at layman's definitions for the everyman:

Bob - cut straight across without any layering. "All one length" kind of idea.
Layers - you either want them or you don't. It means cutting in some hair that's shorter but leaving other hair longer (usually it means keeping the length but adding layers for fullness and style).
Taper - Angling the hair so that it gradually goes from a shorter to longer area.
Texturize - It sort of takes some of the heaviness or weight off, and gives it a little depth without necessarily making it appear shorter.

Once your hair is cut and your hair stylist pulls off that fabulous cape, it's still not too late to get what you want. Don't be afraid to speak up and say something like . . . "You know I really like this part, but this other part is kind of bugging me. I don't like the way it (fill in the blank)."

Even if you have left the building, you can always come back tomorrow and ask for a little touch up. Most hair stylists will do this free of charge. I wouldn't make a giant habit out of this, but on the other hand if you have a situation where you are not happy, there's nothing wrong with trying to fix it.