I feel that there needs to be a conversation about better ways of handling interactions with others in our community. Please consider my point of view with an open heart.
Kindness goes a long way. A gentle approach not only teaches a good lesson, but will make the person on the other end actually think of their mistake without being hurt or having their bubble burst. It will make them respect you and sincerely wish you well.
MY PERSONAL GUIDELINES
I have a set of guidelines that I like to use…
1. SUCCESS IS TEMPORARY
I don’t let success get into my head, in any way. I might be successful today, but success is not a constant. It could vanish overnight. Many a composer who were once very successful and in demand are jobless now. It’s a fact of life.
2. BEING PROFESSIONAL MEANS BEING RESPECTFUL AND COMPASSIONATE
Despite how senior or successful we see ourselves, I will not give myself permission to belittle anyone. No matter how ‘small’, ‘unprofessional’, or ‘new’ I think they are – be it in writing, giving a cold shoulder, bursting their bubble, or even calling them out publicly on an innocent mistake.
I find that it’s best to approach everyone with extreme respect and compassion. My husband recently emailed a lab (he’s a scientist) he really wanted to join. He got a one word reply: “NO.” He totally lost respect for a scientist and supervisor he had previously revered and was dying to work with, simply because of this reply.
3. REMEMBER THAT WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE
If we put ourselves in someone’s shoes, we’d realize that at one point or another, we’ve all experienced similar hardships. Many composers (and people in general) go through periods of depression, lack of work, or are just starry-eyed and full of enthusiasm with no direction of how to enter this crazy industry. If we operate from a conscious state of kindness, there’s never a good reason to give anyone the cold shoulder, or make someone feel less than they are.
4. LEAD WITH POSITIVITY
Be the person everyone looks up to. Lead every interaction with positivity, even when the situation isn’t positive. It’s our own reputation that will keep our names shining bright amongst the little ones and the big ones.
5. MY REPUTATION DOES NOT DEPEND ON OTHERS
I don’t worry about a newbie making ‘the rest of us’ look bad. In every industry there are newbies, wannabes, amateurs, emerging artists, and professionals. Directors and producers are not naïve and they can tell the difference between each.
If you’re no longer a newbie, cherish that and don’t worry about a reputation that only you, as an individual, can preserve and nurture. We need to remember that at the end of the day, although we are a community, we are individuals who are only responsible for our own actions.
My own interactions with directors taught me that just because one brushes me off doesn’t mean ‘all directors are rude’. Just as we never generalize, directors and producers won’t generalize either.
6. CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM VS. DESTRUCTIVE CRITICISM; POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT VS. NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT
If there’s one thing I got out of my education degree which I did after my music composition degree, it’s these four concepts. They are pretty self explanatory. The first from each of the pairs are the ones that should always be chosen when we critique a person for their work or behaviour. It’s the difference between helping and mocking. Let’s always aim to use these. Instead of putting people down, let’s pull them up. Instead of telling people what NOT to do, let’s show them the way.
7. EGO HAS NO PLACE IN THIS INDUSTRY
We are always told that there’s no place for a composer’s ego when composing music for film, because music for film is an act of service/artistic collaboration that aims to serve the picture and the storytelling. I would also say that our egos have no place in any of our interactions.
8. IF I WON’T SAY IT TO THEIR FACE, I WON’T TYPE IT IN AN EMAIL
The online world makes it super easy to just say what we want to say, with no consequences to the feelings of the person on the other end. So, I like to think before I send an email:
“Can I say this to the person’s face without feeling awkward or making them feel awkward?”
I read the email out loud and pretend that I am saying it to their face. If I feel OK after it, I send it. If I feel like I’ve hurt/insulted them, then I reword my email according to what I feel comfortable saying.
9. WAIT 24 HOURS BEFORE HITTING SEND
I owe this to my senior colleagues in Canada. Never send an email when you’re in a negative emotional state. Jot down your thoughts, and revise them 24 hours later. Improve your ideas after you’ve taken a good breather and then craft an email that’s professional, kind, and respectful.
If we all remember to tackle every situation we come across with a bit more humility, kindness, and gentleness, a rejection email becomes a valuable piece of advice; a potentially disagreeable interaction could be forged into a friendship or an artistic collaboration.
Some of the most successful composers out there are successful first and foremost due to their humble character. Kindness goes a long way.
With genuine kindness, we will end up rising above and beyond (and bring others with us)!