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« The Music Business Is Not Dying | Main | How to Book Your Band’s Tour, Step-by-Step »
Thursday
Jan192012

Why Being Polite is Overrated

Negativity as a tactic is severely underrated.

We’re taught to say something nice or not say something at all. After all, art is subjective so even if we don’t like something, we don’t have the right to critique, right?

But what do we do when the execution of the song is obviously flawed?

Sometimes, however, the best thing you give someone is a piping-hot plate of uncomfortable truth.

Steve Jobs was notorious for his outbursts of anger, but there’s not a person in the world who wasn’t affected by the inventions he shepherded into the market. He busted heads because he had to bust heads in order to release high quality products.

To make a masterpiece you must be willing to disagree.

Sometimes forcefully.

In fact, arguing and sarcasm make you more creative by forcing you to view concepts in a different light. Negativity improves group performance on idea-generation tasks. Competitive tasks improved creative output, (like Eric Clapton competing for the love of Layla). Moderate rule breaking is positively correlated with number of leadership roles. Anger at people who slacked off can make them up their effort (assuming they cared in the first place). Being angry also makes you process information more analytically. 

Being negative will also help you be more persuasive.
Negative reviewers were perceived as more intelligent, competent, and expert than positive reviewers, even when the content of the positive review was independently judged as being of higher quality and greater forcefulness.
However, don’t storm into your next band practice, punch a hole in the wall, and go full-on Ghaddafi expecting magic to happen. A willingness to be negative when needed is different than oppressive pessimism. As anyone who has worked in a dictatorship of a job knows, pervasive criticism without positivity leads to learned helplessness. This is about the necessary balance between being emotionally sensitive to the needs of your band mates and being assertive enough to push through hard decisions to get serious work done.

Negativity is a tactic, to be used in some situations where strong analysis or action is needed. Breaking deadlocked negotiations, evaluating new opportunities, critiquing new songs: all of these are times where a little negativity might be needed to push through resistance. Trying to write new songs, improvising, networking or marketing: these activities would be much better served by positivity.

The next time you’re stuck, step back and ask:

Should I be using a soft or firm touch to solve this problem?

—-
Original Article from Derek Thinks Music
—-

*Shout out to Eric Barker at Barking Up The Wrong Tree, almost every link referenced was from research he found.

Reader Comments (9)

Here's your piping-hot plate of uncomfortable truth: The phrase "go full-on Ghaddafi" is an extremely ignorant thing to say. If the reason why escapes you, perhaps less time should be spent writing snarky blog posts in exchange for living in the real world.

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Negativity is...um...negative! There are many ways to express a critique and it's not just hard or soft, there's a lot of gray area in between. If you ever improvised over a chord progression, you know that there are many ways to express oneself within that structure.
I know that for everything that I've ever wanted to say, there are 50 ways to say it with 50 different results. Why do I know that? Cause I'm not a zombie who needs to just have one way to do each thing!
Up your communication skills. It's a not-brainer! ! You need more creative improvisational skills and a good vocabulary. How do you get that? Keep practicing your music... and read more books!

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterDCart

Unfortunately, a lot of people won't give constructive criticism. I know that to be true for people. The people who "like" their music will give their music a glowing review even when it's pure crap. You don't need to like everything your favourite artists do. But they can't wrap their minds around that.

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterMr. C.C.

Encouraging people to be manipulative in a creative environment, or really any environment, is never good advice. While leveraging a creative process with anger might offer short-term results, it will only create division between people. Honesty and kindness are the way to go.

January 20 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

smh

January 20 | Unregistered CommenteriAreConscious

Why are there so many people that disagree? I completely agree! People, of course you shouldn't smash somebody's confidence into the ground, but if you want to get somewhere, there simply are moments where you have to say, in a very clear and probably hard way, what's going wrong or what's bothering you.
There's a fat chance you'll want to plan a gig one day and the guy you're talking, calling or mailing with is giving you a hard time. Perhaps he's a slacker on his job, perhaps he's lost motivation for lots of things, perhaps he just thinks you're an amateur, whatever. Being negative (while being honest and reasonable) could shake things up a bit. There's no need to make enemies, but there's certainly no need to kiss everybody's butt and let people walk all over you.
People are just too afraid to speak their minds sometime's.

January 22 | Unregistered CommenterDidier Leclaire

Dale Carnegie wrote the book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People." It's great, been around for years, give it a read.

January 22 | Unregistered CommenterB-rad Malibu

Well I agree. And here's the impolite truth--your writing is incoherent. I sincerely believe that there are complete concepts in your mind and that you could muster arguments for them. Why not do that instead of disconnected, shambolic blurts like this:

In fact, arguing and sarcasm make you more creative by forcing you to view concepts in a different light. Negativity improves group performance on idea-generation tasks. Competitive tasks improved creative output, (like Eric Clapton competing for the love of Layla). Moderate rule breaking is positively correlated with number of leadership roles. Anger at people who slacked off can make them up their effort (assuming they cared in the first place). Being angry also makes you process information more analytically.

January 24 | Unregistered CommenterJeronimous

When, and only when, I am asked my opinion, I can't help myself...I have to be honest.

I think people can 'take it' as a negative OR a positive. But I think a positive or negative take, on the information I supply, is up to the person being critiqued, not the person critiquing.

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterJill Moody
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