Episode 050: Emotional Etiquette

Episode 050: Emotional Etiquette

Practical Bass
Practical Bass
Episode 050: Emotional Etiquette

Music is emotional and so is straight talk with your band. Learn how to have those discussions the right way!

Show notes

Thanks to our listener Adam Wright for this excellent topic suggestion! LISTENER MAIL!

  • “I think I would enjoy an episode on emotions and etiquette while playing in a band. I don’t know if other people struggle with it, but I have. How can you give constructive criticism without bruising someone’s ego? How can a person be confident and assertive without being egotistical?”


A time when you had an emotional reaction in a music situation and it went downhill:

  • Dave
    • Big band (10+), added a guy we wanted, but he sort of brought his son with him and we didn’t want that guy… were trying to collect pay at end of gig, son got annoying about getting his pay, took out all my anxiety on him right there
  • Paul
    • I hate being lost… Got lost on the way to a gig because I had really poor directions (nor do any research, it was pre-Internet)… got to the gig and more or less exploded about it, basically ruined the mood

Now the same, only it went really well:

  • Dave
    • Had a very busy band, usually 2x/week regularly… started developing a tense relationship with one bandmate… rather than blowing up or letting things get out of hand to where band imploded, sat down and wrote down what was wrong and what I wanted to change… sandwiched with positive feedback. Delivered this 1×1 at a neutral place where they didn’t know anyone else, and behavior changed!
  • Paul
    • Project that broke up… rather than making a scene, or ganging up on someone not making the grade in rehearsal, had candid conversation outside that time… planned a message, agreed on someone to communicate it, and everything went well with no feelings hurt

What do all of these have in common? High stakes, different opinions, emotional context

  • High stakes
    • We value our time
    • We want to be great at our music jobs…
    • and PERCEIVED that way!
    • We have a vision in mind and want reality to line up with that
  • Different opinions
    • You’re seeing things one way and the other person’s seeing it differently
    • What’s making you happy vs. what makes someone else happy
  • Emotional context
    • Passionate about the music / art
    • As musicians and performers we make ourselves vulnerable… to good or bad feedback whether we are ready for it or not
    • Gets more charged around live performance, so much to do, getting in the right headspace

What differs is the way we chose to approach an emotional situation

  • The key is, if you want to influence people effectively, and get good results for everyone, you have to learn how to address these situations properly
  • Takes forethought and planning… and practice, probably over time
  • You need to make people feel safe to say what’s on their mind.
    • You can always hear when people are beating around the bush by how they speak. That’s when you need to let them know it’s OK to express themselves
    • If you don’t make a space for dialogue, you can’t have one 😉
    • Dave: Carve time out to chill and talk about band stuff while you’re all together and not trying to fix songs, etc.
  • The more aggressively you try to make your point, the less effective you’ll be
    • That is literally the opposite of making people feel safe to express themselves
    • “You always/never…” — these absolutes are rarely true and put people on the defensive, you’re forcing a judgment on someone else and not talking about your own feelings and experiences
    • The more emotionally charged things are, the more passionate people will fail to make room for someone else’s thoughts
    • But also you can’t apologize for your feelings, either, because this shows you’re not owning and taking responsibility for them — better to be confident + calm


  • Stop and think
    • IS IT ME? I can change myself more easily than I can change them
    • Who’s been talking more in the last two minutes? If it’s me, I’m not listening.
    • Is this fight worth it? What is my actual goal at the end of this discussion?
    • Do the thinking beforehand — trying to force the conversation right now may not get you the results you want

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash. Music: JahzzarPlease Listen CarefullyspinningmerkabaUrbana-Metronica (wooh-yeah mix).

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