The Feet First Guide to Better Communication

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Woman runningNo, this post is not about how to improve your pedalling. It’s about the brisk walk I took last week that reminded me of the importance of good communication, not just in our music making, but in everything we do.

I had been asked to perform for a corporate event. It was a fairly last minute booking, and some of the important details weren’t finalized until three days before the event. That’s when it became clear we had a problem: I was no longer sure that I could get there on time.

The emails were flying and, while they were still friendly, the frustration was building on all sides. I wrote another email and fortunately I stopped to read it before I hit “send.” I realized that I needed to step back for just a moment. I decided to step outside, counting on an energetic ten minute walk to give me some perspective.

My years of teaching have shown me the importance of clear and effective communication. And I have formed some principles around communication that I adhere to strictly to ensure the highest level of interaction with my students.

Taking a walk fits my first rule: if the communication is getting sticky, get some distance and perspective. Particularly if the situation is emotionally charged, taking a quick break can create enough breathing room to begin to look for solutions.

Once my head is clearer, then I can reconsider the situation with the following three things in mind.

Clarity
I believe that once we can achieve clarity, the way to a solution becomes much clearer. What exactly is the problem to be solved? Beyond what either of us wants, what is the ultimate goal? What are the facts? What are the obstacles to resolution?

Consideration
Consideration and respect for others’ viewpoints and positions must be paramount. What does the other person want or need? What are their concerns? Be sure to state your understanding of their position to be certain that you have heard them correctly.

By the way, this doesn’t mean to put their concerns above yours. Rather, it is to be sure that all ides are considered equally.

Integrity
This is the most important factor for me.   I want to be certain that I am being honest in my words and actions, that they are aligned with my principles. I find that striving for personal integrity in all my dealings makes rash, thoughtless and potentially destructive communication much less likely.

And these guidelines should be a part of your musical life as well. Seek clarity in your technique and expression. Give consideration to the composer’s intent in your interpretation. Choose integrity by always bringing your best efforts to your practice and performance.

So what happened after my walk? I started seeking clarity. I picked up the phone, and we spoke in person rather than by email. It was amazing how quickly we were able to resolve the problem!

How will you improve your communication, musical or otherwise, today?

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