Monday, November 17, 2014

Musical Monday - How to Handle Negative Comments

As much as it pains us to admit, we do get negative comments from time to time.  How we handle those can set a tone for our choirs.  Getting upset or defensive can create a combative climate.  Bowing to each negative and trying to change according can create conflict and confusion.  So just what do we do as choir leaders & as choir members to handle those sometimes dreaded comments.

1.  See the good - First of all, know that someone is going to disagree.  It is the nature of people to have an opinion and even more often in the art world.  If someone is offering an opinion, (and remember that it is just that - THEIR OPINION - more on that later) then they have heard something that hit them where they live and want to comment on it.  That is good.  If no one says anything, then perhaps some re-evaluation is needed.  Something not worth talking about didn't make much of an impact.  So even seemingly negative comments are good.

2. Let the audience own it - One of the things I learned during my own children's teen years was that they were NOT going to like something.  Similarly, some people cannot find the good in anything.  They have to pick things apart.  some people are just simply having a bad day and you happen to be the target.
     When someone comes up and says, "I don't know why you would have chosen that song or interpretation or arrangement or whatever."  Your usual response is go into defensive mode with something like, "Our choir liked it.  Or we are too big/small for another arrangement. Or ---   S T O P !!!!!!!
DO NOT DEFEND!  Let the person talking own the comments.  You must respond with something like, "I am sorry you feel that way." or "What an interesting idea."  or "Perhaps, you will enjoy our other choices."  You see, the person with the comment owns it.  You take ownership when you try to defend.  Whatever you do, smile nod and when in doubt you smile, nod and say, "That's great!  Thanks for your feedback."  And then walk away baby, smiling all the way!

3. When the choir disagrees -  Depending on the constitution of your choir, you may have a committee that chooses music or you ask for suggestions.  In that case, it puts paid to criticizing choices.  However, their can be differences of opinion on interpretation or learning methods etc.  Our choir is always encouraged to share their opinions.  Some do it quietly, and some not.  We have no one who dissents just to be obtuse, thankfully, but you may have.
I believe that respect is earned.  I love to get opinions and ideas.  Some of them are really astute.  Other eyes and ears helping are great.  However, they know that in the end, I get to choose.  Earn that respect by first respecting the rights of others to hold and share opposing opinions.
The best solution is to be open to ideas and as often as practical, try them.  If however, you have a Negative Nelly or Ned you may have to do some quiet, private intervention and point it out.  Often they don't even realize they are being so negative.

Welcome the comments.  Do not defend to outsiders but take on their comments to see if improvements can be made.  All comments, negative and positive are signs of interest.  And that's a good thing - right?

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