Somebody somewhere is paying for something

Finally, the last thing we’re going to discuss in this little series “Creating Opportunities to Participate in Live Music” which may be a little controversial to some (and it doesn’t matter where you are in the world or what kind of music it is), is that somebody somewhere pays for something. 

Music costs money. 

Somebody somewhere has to pay for something. Always.

Nothing is costless

That’s the bottom line: nothing is costless. Everything has a cost to it. And I’m not just talking about money. I’m talking about a cost of time and expertise as well. Even for audience members,  it’s costing them to attend an event. Obviously if you buy a ticket or donate, there’s an easy way to measure the monetary value of that, but it’s also costing you your time, energy and effort, the decision to actually put it in your calendar, to make sure you’ve invited people to come with you (hint!) and to actually attend. 

In addition, with the parking, the meals out before or after meeting the performers, or whatever it is that you do after the concert, it’s costing you something to be involved there, too. We’ve gotten to a point in society where we’re expecting other people to pick up the tab, and sometimes they might… it does happen. Right now through the Dunedin Music Society’s COVID Catch-up Challenge, we are specifically looking for people who can support our organization so that other people, a broader base of people can actually get involved in and experience the emotional well-being that music provides for them. The problem arises when we start to expect it. Remember, nothing is costless. One of the big dangers over the last 40 to 50 years is that folks have been looking for these kinds of “free” environments, particularly in the arts. 

I don’t understand why, but it seems to affect mostly the musical and performing arts. Maybe it’s because so many people try to do it themselves; why would you pay a hundred dollars to have a professional musician come in and perform for you, when Person B, although they may not do a comparable job in terms of quality, will do it for free because they love doing it? That second person may pay their bills some other way, so they can do music for free because it’s a hobby. So of course, a lot of people will go for that because they don’t have to pay. We’ve all heard the old adage: out of the ability to have things fast, cheap, or of good quality, you can have two of the three, but never all three…right? And these days, most of Western society goes for fast and cheap every single time. That’s created an environment where we expect music performances to be available for free. 

The venue, the performers, the instruments, the equipment, all of that is lumped together. I ask my career coaching students all the time whether they attended college on a scholarship. When they answer yes, they didn’t pay a penny, I remind them that maybe they didn’t pay themselves, but somebody invested in them to help them learn to become an expert in what they do. Somebody somewhere always pays. 

Star Trek’s Utopia has no money 

In the famous series Star Trek, the Utopia they were striving for had no money. In one of the movies, William Shatner explained to somebody how each person just works for the good of everyone else. But the thing is that they had no actual currency. It didn’t exist in their society. In our society, it does exist as a medium of exchange, and there are no indications to suggest that it’s going away anytime soon. You simply can’t live in a society where everything is free. 

While money exists, money is not evil. Everyone gets that quote from the Bible wrong. It’s not the money itself, but the love of money that can stir evil. And as long as this system of exchange exists, somebody somewhere has to pay for things. The Utopian environment portrayed in Star Trek doesn’t exist. So we’re not living in that environment. Maybe we’ll get to that point in our lifetime, and it will be ideal, I don’t know for sure. But right now, the opportunity that we have to enjoy and participate in live music is going to cost money. 

Pooling resources

What I recommend is this:  I recommend we pool our resources. Let’s work together. As we said before, “It’s up to us, Hamish!” to actually bring music to our local communities, but we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We don’t have to duplicate what everyone else is doing, which is a waste of time, energy and human effort.

We live together in this community, and whether we know each other well or not, we are neighbors. We are the community. So it’s up to us to work with the people around us. In conclusion, those are the three things I think are important to remember when we are actually looking for opportunities to create and participate in live music;  it is up to us. It works both ways. And somebody somewhere always has to pay.

If you missed any part of this series, here are all four articles:

  1. Creating opportunities for live music
  2. Who is responsible for creating opportunities to participate in live music?
  3. It works both ways
  4. Somebody somewhere is paying for something (this article)

Have you heard the recent interviews over on Classic Jabber? Worth a listen, coz I’m sure you’ll laugh, learn and want to share, too 🙂

It works both ways…

It works both ways - there is give and take between performers and audiences (and venues!)

Audiences in an actual live environment can give their feedback through applause. If you’ve ever been to a jazz or rock concert, and in the middle of a song a performer does something a little bit special, the people applaud. The same thing happens at the opera or at a ballet. Have you been in those environments, where you’ve actually heard applause in the middle of a piece of music? Of course you have. It’s normal. Only in the 1930s with Toscanini did we start silencing people during live music concerts. And there’s a wonderful story about that. Toscanini’s radio shows were running over time, and they couldn’t figure out why, since the delay wasn’t written in the music itself.  It was the fact that the audience was applauding between movements of a symphony, and it made the radio show run late, so they cut it out. Toscanini (being the dictator that he was) loved it and brought the silence between movements back into the concert hall. And less than a hundred years ago, that’s when people stopped applauding between movements of symphonies by Beethoven, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Brahms…all the composers. Those composers didn’t expect their audiences to stay silent.  If you’ve actually heard Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony, how on earth can anyone sit on their hands at the end of the first movement? When you’re at a classical concert, if an oboe has a really beautiful melody and the soloist plays it well, they expect the audience to applaud. 

Give and take 

The live music experience is an exchange, a give and take. Without feedback from the audience, performers don’t know if they’ve done a good job. 

And I love this: if you cheer them on, whistle, applaud, jump up on your feet, and make as much noise as you can, you just let us know that we’re doing a good job somehow. And if you’re one of those people who tells anyone else to shush!, you’re missing the point. You’re missing the reason for being there. If you want to study and listen to the music intensely and purposefully without distraction, that’s why we have recordings. That’s why we have CDs and MP3s and other technology. But the live environment is a conversation, a give and take between performers and audience members, back and forth. The interesting thing about the fact that music works both ways is that music itself is bigger than just that performance.

Performers and audiences 

A good performance is going to affect you. Whether you’re a performer, an audience member, a volunteer or a staff member, a performance is going to affect you long after the show is over. And I’m going to tell you right now that lives actually change. When you support live music-making, you can change your life.  It happened to me when I was seven years old; I was a very quiet kid,  just absolutely silent. For two years, I didn’t say a single word (my wife wishes that was still the case!). But when I was a kid, my parents were rightfully concerned. “Does he even have a voice? We haven’t heard anything.” Eventually, obviously, I did talk. But when I was seven, they took me to see my local community orchestra. We had seats in the front row of the balcony, and apparently I sat leaning on the balcony with my chin on the railing for the entire concert, except the intermission. On the way home, again I didn’t say a word. They were worried. Did they waste their money?  And then, just as we reached our village, about a 40 minute drive later, Mum said, “did you like that? Was there anything that you enjoyed?” And apparently I turned around and said, “I want to do what that guy in the front was doing.” That’s the story my mother tells me, and I can believe it. My entire life changed by attending that performance. 

It’s bigger than a performance 

Twice in my life I’ve tried to give up pursuing music as a career and do something else, but it didn’t happen, and I always came back to music.  It completely changes lives. Even if it’s not that extreme of an example, you could be experiencing sorrow or sadness or any other number of emotions. You may not even know what emotions you’re experiencing at the moment, but if you attend a good, live in-person concert, it will help you cope with those feelings. It will help you deal with those emotions. It’ll help make sense of them. Sometimes music will take you through anger and annoyance and it will help you express them. While you’re sitting in your seat, you can still express anger through the music. That’s the give and take part. And then when it’s done, you can then process it a lot easier. Maybe it’s even changed. Maybe you’ve even gotten rid of that emotion. Maybe you’ve replaced it with joy or something else. There are so many benefits to live, in-person music making, but it’s bigger than just the performance. So many lives are impacted. It’s bigger than the performers, bigger than the audiences, bigger than the venue. It’s even bigger than the music itself.

So it works two ways when creating opportunities to participate in live music, and brace yourself, because lives are going to change.


If you would like to explore building your own profitable performing career as a classical musician, let’s see if my experience of 30+ years can help. Schedule a free Breakthrough Session now.

Who is responsible for creating opportunities to participate in live music?

If you are familiar with the movie Braveheart… “It’s up to us, Hamish!”

I can’t believe I went there, but you know what? It’s true. It’s up to us. No one else is going to create opportunities for you; it’s up to individuals. If you leave it to anyone else, especially if you think there are professionals out there who can do this (and there are, and they’d be really good at it), by just relying on that you’re assigning ownership to other people to give you the musical fuel that you need. It’s not going to happen; you’re not going to be satisfied. You’re not going to be able to enjoy as much as you could if you did it yourself. Simply put, it’s up to us. It’s up to the individual person to create an opportunity where he/she can participate in music. 

That might mean that you buy a ticket and attend a concert, if you don’t necessarily want to get involved in the music-making yourself. Maybe you can host a concert in an appropriate environment. If you go to church regularly, you might be able to borrow the church sanctuary or fellowship hall for a bit. Finally, you could even host a front lawn mini-concert. Have you heard of those? It’s a service that the Dunedin Music Society offers in which you actually create an opportunity to participate in live music-making on your property, where you and your neighbors, and maybe a select group of friends, come and sit socially-distanced and can enjoy live music together. So there’s another opportunity, but still, it’s up to you. 

Here are three ways that you can physically implement creating your own opportunities:

Join a conversation

When I say “it’s up to us,” the first important thing is to join a conversation. When you talk to people, or join in a conversation with somebody, you can mention music in almost any context whatsoever. By dropping a musical reference in conversation, you bring music back into the forefront, and you can now participate in the idea of what music is, and where it’s going to happen. “You know what? We should get together. We should attend a concert. We should put on a concert. We should host a concert. We should perform together.”  Whenever you find yourself in company, join a conversation, and get people talking about live music.

Get more input

The second thing is to try to get more input from people as well; you might consider asking them, “what do you enjoy doing? And by the way, have you tried something different? Do you know the benefits music actually has for you? Do you know why music is so important for our emotional well-being?” Having these conversations creates opportunities where people are now interested and want to get involved with something musical. As the language of emotions, music is so vital in these and any difficult times, in times of sadness and sorrow, as well as in times of joy.  Think about this: when did we need music most over the last several decades? September 12, 2001 (yes, the day after…) comes to mind as one of the most important days when people probably turned to music. 

Right now in this time of isolation, we need that emotional well-being. We need music in our lives; live, in-person music. Recently on social media I shared a double picture collage where the top picture was an airplane full of people with masks on, and everyone looked absolutely miserable. Directly below that was a completely empty concert hall of a thousand seats.  And I sometimes wonder if we’ve got our priorities a little bit mixed up. We’re stuffing ourselves together into a big tube with masks on, but in a larger environment, where you can actually pull fresh air in and get that emotional healing that we crave through live music, that isn’t happening. Now, there are a couple of states in the US that are opening up to these possibilities faster than others. 

It's up to us.

But in some countries around the world, people are actually beginning to perform again, which is awesome. Venues are not crowded, they’re keeping social distance. It’s possible… people are doing it. So get more input from people, invite people to comment, to respond, to give feedback and see what they think, but it’s up to us. Also be very wary when looking for opportunities to participate. 

Be careful about entitlement

The third and final point is to be careful about entitlement; being entitled to having opportunities given and presented to you. It’s a very dangerous thing when, even if you’ve been playing for most of your life and just moved to a new area, you actually believe you are the best thing since sliced bread and you deserve to have all the opportunities to perform. That’s not “community”. That is not what music making is. That’s pure ego and showing off, and you know what? It doesn’t create a very nice environment for anyone. Ultimately (and I’ve experienced this), you don’t get satisfied anyway; it doesn’t help you. You’re never satisfied. So just keep a check on entitlement expectations, thinking that because of who you are or what you do, you deserve to have this opportunity to participate in music. Remember that it’s up to us to create those opportunities. And as I said before, it can be really, really simple. It can be as simple as looking for something that’s going on locally and attending. That in its own right, is creating an opportunity in your life to participate in live music-making. If you are a performer and you want to perform, and you want to share more of your music, then create the opportunity… host it at your own front door.

There are ways to find somebody else to communicate with, to actually perform with, while maintaining social distance. But it’s up to you. There are organizations I’m going to explore in just a moment where we can make this easier for you. That’s what the Dunedin Music Society was set up for:  to make those opportunities much easier to connect you and your community with live music. So many people think they need to reinvent the wheel in this industry. It’s unbelievable. Scary. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to discover, for the first time ever, this wonderful new thing. There are people out there who do this for a living and are actually happy to help you do it! 

For example, if you want to host a front lawn mini concert, go to dunedinmusicsociety.org. It’s a service that we offer, and the first item under the “Shop” tab. Have a look there, and we’ll bring live music to your front lawn, where you and your neighbors can sit at the end of the driveway and enjoy the music. You can invite a couple of friends to sit on your front lawn. Maybe you want a small band or a small chamber group. You can position them on the driveway so they don’t mess up your grass; we can work with that! So have a look at those options and see what we offer. 

A two-way conversation

Remember that music is not a one-way street, performer vs. audience, presenter vs. recipient. It’s always a two-way conversation. Throughout the number of performances that I’ve conducted, the groups have played incredibly well. Seriously, we enjoy it. They make music with fun, with excitement, but at times it still falls absolutely flat. Do you know why? Because the audience isn’t giving back, we’re not getting the energy or the focus from them. And we feed off of that. If you are an audience member, and even if you’re a performer and you attend a concert, if you sit there criticizing everything and listening for all the mistakes, we pick that up and it affects what we’re going to deliver to you. If you’re excited just to be there and to hear the music and to congratulate people who did a decent job, the best that they could, again, we feel that we receive that and it makes us want to deliver more of even better quality. And that just lifts the whole concert experience up. So it is completely a give and take relationship. It’s a two-way conversation every single time music occurs.

Because it’s up to us to create these opportunities, there’s always going to be give and take. There’s also never going to be a time when you can actually expect something for nothing. We’ll be exploring these essential topics in more depth in the next segments.


If you would like to explore building your own profitable performing career as a classical musician, let’s see if my experience of 30+ years can help. Schedule a free Breakthrough Session now.

Creating opportunities for live music

The thing about music in general is that, as we’ve explored many times, it’s the language of emotions. But it’s also conversational, which means you really cannot have music without two people. Yes, music can be created by one person and that one person can enjoy listening to what they’re performing, but that’s not what music is.

There's a key to creating opportunities to participate in live classical music.
There’s a key to creating opportunities to participate in live classical music.

Music is a language. A language is used for conversations. it’s used for communicating with others. So you need a least two people in order for music to actually mean anything. And it’s not always a performer just presenting and somebody else just hearing, it is an actual two way conversation. We’ll explore that in another article coming soon, but the issue is we don’t always have the right opportunities, or the right environment to participate in live music making. 

Let’s hang out on this language of emotions for a moment. I know mathematicians like to think that mathematics is the world’s only universal language. However, there are at least seven known languages on this planet that don’t have numbers. They actually can’t do mathematics because they don’t have numbers in their language. There’s no concept of what a number is. So they won’t be able to communicate with other people through mathematics. 

Yes, there is a ton of correlation between music and mathematics. I recently saw a comment about that on social media. There is a very big correlation. They are very, very closely knit, but not everyone can participate in mathematics if they don’t have numbers in their language. However, everybody can, unless there’s an actual physical problem such as a disconnect among the vocal cords, they can speak. You could even speak with your eyes.

I ask this a lot from most of my performing groups: smile with your eyes. Even if you can’t actually pick up an instrument and play at the same time and smile, you can still smile with your eyes. And you can tap a rhythm. If you have a pulse, you can tap a beat. You can tap a rhythm. That’s participating in music. Everyone can do it. I’ve taught so many people who claim that they’re either tone deaf or they have no coordination. The people who do struggle with coordinating their hands, their feet, their bodies in general, the drum kit is a great way to start. Okay. It’s not the ultimate musical form of expression or physical therapy, and you need to go beyond simply tapping a beat, but it’s a really easy and good way to actually start getting coordinated. 

Everybody has the right and the ability to create and enjoy their music.

Lee Higgins

According to Lee Higgins, “Everybody has the right and the ability to create and enjoy their music.” Now, the important thing, actually, there are lots of important things in that statement, but I think one of the most important things is the enjoyment part. Music is not just entertainment, there is joy involved. And you can only do that with two people where one person shares something, an emotion or a feeling, through music, another person receives that communication, and then they can respond. 

So how do we make that happen? Who makes it happen? How do we get involved in music? There are three things I would like to explore with you over the next few weeks. These three things, I think, summarize the kind of music that we can get involved with and who’s responsible for it. 

But while we wait for next week’s article, would you mind popping over to Creative Loafing each day until the end of August, and voting for your favorite classical musician in Tampa Bay?!

THANK YOU 🙂

How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People 3/3

Continued from the previous article

So believing that you’re right in what you’re saying is what is causing you to lose friends and infuriate people. Maybe you’ve unfriended people when you believe you’re right. What are you basing that on…science? There’s a lot of talk on all sides of the political spectrum right now about using science with COVID-19. What is science? Who says science is right? Again, let’s use that same example. Science suggested that the world is flat, that there was an edge. Science later changed to reveal the fact that it’s not. So what was true at one point, according to science, is no longer true. Some other time, science has proven throughout history to be fluid. There is no hard and fast factual, consistent entity that you know of on the planet; it just doesn’t exist. The universe is still growing. It’s still expanding. 

The sun and our world might be shrinking, but the universe is getting bigger.

Our world may be shrinking. Our sun may be shrinking. We don’t know. I mean, global warming has been happening for the last 10,000 years, since the last ice age. Are humans contributing to the warming of the world’s climate? Probably. Yes. I don’t know. People would turn around and say, what does science say? Well, which part of science are you talking about? And from whose perspective? One doctor will tell you that drinking coffee is great for you; another doctor will tell you it’s bad for you. One doctor will tell you to actually go running, and work out and exercise. Another doctor will tell you that it only goes so far, because you actually need to eat less. So who can believe science anymore? There are so many different perspectives and opinions. There is no one actual result. If you believe you’re right based on science, then again, you’re not being empathetic. You’re not listening. And your opinion and perspective based on that science might actually be proven different later on by somebody else. 

We can’t actually believe that we’re absolutely, wholeheartedly right. However, you can believe that you could be right, and make a choice as to what you choose to believe in. It is always a choice. We all believe in something, whether we acknowledge it or not, but it is always going to be a choice. So here’s the thing about believing that you’re right. It’s okay to adjust your perspective in your opinion, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, you will probably garner more respect from other people. If you listen, if you consider other people’s perspective and opinions, you empathize with them. And then you consider the choices of what you believe in. And if it means that what you’ve stood for for decades is no longer the case, then fine, good for you. Well done.

But if you dig your heels in…

But if you just dig your heels in without listening to other people’s perspectives and opinions, without any consideration whatsoever of alternatives, then that’s how you lose friends and infuriate people. 

And the third thing is hiding. It’s very easy in today’s society to hide behind two things. Number one, we hide from conversations. And when I say a conversation, I mean with another person, not online. That’s not with a person, that’s through technology. You’re not having a conversation, you’re just blasting out opinions and perspectives. Have an actual conversation, preferably in person. If you can’t meet over coffee, as two individuals, six feet apart, then you know what? Get on the phone or some other device using today’s technology. You can actually use video, chat, FaceTime, or a multitude of other technological apps and programs where you can still see each other. And it’s important to actually see somebody else when you’re having a conversation. 

But if you’re using a platform where you can just type on a keyboard and share a thought, that is hiding from a conversation.  There is so much more to a conversation than just the words you say. Whoever you want to be online, you can choose to be, inventing a specific persona. And in addition, even if you don’t actually choose to be a certain persona online, it is happening with or without your consent. You are presenting a persona online that may or may not reflect the real you, how you actually feel inside. Only when you are face to face with somebody will you actually temper emotions, hold things back, actually think about what you’re saying.

We’re actually getting very lazy.

As long as you’re not yelling or screaming; as long as you’re listening. So if you want to lose friends, if you want to infuriate people, then hide from the conversations, hide behind the social media. Try to actually socialize in real life, not through the media. Another thing that we’re hiding from is the effort that’s required to be human. We’re actually getting very lazy. It requires effort to talk to someone, to listen to somebody, to have a conversation. It requires effort because everything is done for us. These days, everything that we buy is there to make our lives easier. We are shying away from the effort of having a conversation. It’s simply too much effort to think, to actually listen and consider that “maybe I could be wrong.”

So we don’t bother. We’re hiding from the effort required to actually converse with people. So I recommend that you literally just call someone, pick up the phone, arrange a time where you can have a conversation in person or meet using technology. Video is best, so you can actually see each other. Classic Jabber, as you know, usually has up to six people conversing at a time (no more than six, because then it becomes very difficult to have one conversation at a time and for everyone to contribute). So meet up with people. Most places right now are beginning to open up, where you can meet one, two, or three other people in a socially-distanced circle around a table. You can even socially distance a meet-up in a park, where you can see people and converse. That’s how you gain friends.

We’re losing friends and infuriating each other because we’ve stopped listening, because we believe we’re right, and because we’re hiding. I do hope that you’ll take this seriously. That you’ll consider what we’re looking at today in society. And that you’ll actually start listening, that you believe that you could be right, but may be wrong as well, and that you no longer hide from having difficult conversations and making the effort to listen more than you talk. 


We’ve got some more fabulous episodes of Classic Jabber coming up soon, some more interviews. If you’d like to be interviewed, if you’d like to have a chat with me about classical music or everything surrounding it, then just let me know, send us an email. Contacting me on any of my social media pages is fine, or use my contact page.  In the meantime, have a listen to some previous episodes, jump all the way back, listen to some of the older episodes that you may have missed in the past. They’re quite fascinating. And who knows where we’re going to be in a year’s time from now. But what I can tell you is that classical music WILL be a part of people’s lives. And if that includes you, then great, wonderful, welcome. Let’s stay in touch.  Let’s build our friendship and let’s be nice people.

How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People 2/3

Continued from the previous article

That is actually what is happening – we are losing friends and infuriating people once close to us. That’s our current reality, and I’ve noticed there are patterns, three behaviors people are demonstrating without realizing they are losing friends as a result. (If they even care. That would be truly sad.)

But the reason that we’re losing each other, the reason we’re disconnecting, is because we are infuriating each other. The original title was how to lose friends and piss people off because we are really annoying each other right now. And of course, I’m not talking about absolutely everybody. There are exceptions, of course, but across the board, there is so much bad news. There is so much anger and yelling and shouting, or just sheer walking away.

Walking away doesn't solve anything. It's infuriating.

It’s pointless. There are no conversations happening right now. That’s an exaggeration; there are very, very few conversations happening. There’s yelling and screaming from a soap box and I’m saddened that people are not open to hearing anything else. So, what are these three behaviors that I’ve noticed on how people are losing their friends and infuriating other people? 

Well, the first thing is that we stop listening. If you choose to actually stop listening to anything, then you’re going to lose friends. You’re going to infuriate people. And of course, there’s a big difference between listening and hearing. This is a big theme in my life. It’s something that I’ve been sharing all along. I just recently spoke to George Marriner Maull. It’s something that he taught me when I was a teenager; hearing is not the same as listening. Hearing means that there is sound going into your ears, and that there’s something going on. Listening means you now take that sound and internalize it.

There is a difference between hearing and listening

You’ll actually create thoughts of some kind. Maybe even if you’re lucky, goosebumps, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that there is a difference between hearing something and actually listening. So when you’re talking, you cannot hear; you can’t even hear somebody else’s perspective when you’re talking, too. 

There’s a lot of news right now. I’m watching interviews, news programs, all that kind of stuff, with a huge amount of delays going on: communication delays, technological delays. And often, the hosts are talking over their guests. They can’t hear each other. How can anyone respond? It’s so frustrating to see that.

Yes, I’m going to use a cliche here, okay? Because all cliches are born in truth. And this one is so true. It’s unbelievable. You do have two ears and one mouth. Therefore, you should be listening twice as much as you talk. That’s hard to do. It’s really very hard to do. So when you’re talking, you cannot hear and you stop listening. But when you just hear something, as opposed to listening, you cannot be empathetic. Now, let’s get this clear about empathy. We’re not talking about sympathy, which is when you actually can identify with the same experience. You’ve had a very similar experience, and you can identify with that. You’ve been through it yourself. Empathy is a little different. It means that you can appreciate what the other person might be going through. That does not mean you have to agree with them. Empathy does not mean agreement. Empathy means understanding.

You understand the other person’s perspective, whether or not you agree or disagree with it. But if you’re just hearing noise, if you’re just hearing somebody talking, and not listening, you’re not internalizing it. You’re not thinking about it. You cannot be empathetic. Therefore, you have to be perfectly honest. If you are not willing to understand the perspective of the other person, then you’ve got no right to share your opinion. You’ve got no right to share your perspective or your judgment. Empathy is absolutely essential to any comprehensive sane, normal human discourse. 

What can you do?

If you have stopped listening, if you do find yourself in a situation where you’re not listening or other people are not listening, then what can you do? Well, obviously listen, internalize, think about it. But the way you can do this physically is to start deliberately asking more questions; keep asking questions. After a while, you may find yourself just hearing noise again, as opposed to listening. There’s a lot, but it’s the best way to actually avoid losing friends. Ask them questions and let them respond. Listen, internalize. Think about what they’re saying and then find that empathy. 

So that’s the first thing. The second thing that I’ve noticed as to how people lose friends and infuriate people is because they believe they’re right. Well, of course, Stephen, what do you expect? Well, here’s the issue with believing that you’re right. And again, this does hark back to the “Righteous Mind” (Jonathan Haidt). You may not be right, there is always a possibility that for somebody, somewhere on the planet, what you’re saying is not actually helpful. What I recommend is that you believe that you could be right. It’s not necessarily a fact. And we’ve seen things in opinions and perspectives change over time. If you met somebody today who absolutely insisted that the world is flat,  you’d call them out.

You’d think, where have they been for the last 500 years? Well, they haven’t lived for 500 years, and neither have you. But, if you come across somebody who’s absolutely convinced the world is flat, that there are edges, that we go so far and then it just drops off, that it is not a continuous circle or a globe, you wouldn’t get upset. You’d just stop listening. But they’re convinced that they’re right. What if you actually think that you could be right, that the world is flat? Well, then you’re open to looking at other perspectives, other opinions that may suggest it’s not flat.

Read more in part 3, coming soon.

How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People 1/3

I’ve noticed recently that fewer and fewer people are having conversations with each other.

It’s a problem.

So permit me to tackle it as one, small, impacting voice.

How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People

Usually, my musings about life, the universe, and everything are done in a small group enjoying breakfast which is then recorded and shared via my classical music podcast, Classic Jabber. 

On this topic, though, I went solo. 

Why?

Well, I’ve had some people who listen to my podcast say, “Where’s the classical music?” After all, they know how passionate I am about it, and that I desire to see the world become a better place through more accessible, inclusive and appealing live concerts (the ones without artificial amplification, that is).

But there’s more to music than music. 

Many performers have spent a lot of time, probably even decades, working on their craft, talking about the specific details, but because there is more to music than just the music, I like to talk about everything else.

Because very few people do.

Topics such as: for the human race, what is music? How does it affect us? How can we present it? How can we do it better? How can we share it with others? And what are people’s perspectives of it? Why is classical music, particularly, no longer part of everyday life, as much as it used to be, and so on. All of these topics contribute to the discussions that happen when I meet with my friends for breakfast.

But since we have been prevented from meeting for meals in groups like that, it seems society at large is losing the ability to converse. Maybe our ability to have discussions with each other has been deteriorating over time without my noticing because I make a concerted effort to keep listening and talking. Maybe it is as sudden as it seems. 

It just looks and feels like there is a lot of shouting going on. 

Everyone seems to be on the defense all the time, because they feel attacked. There’s a lot of pushing and shoving and anger being expressed. 

It doesn’t feel good, and an increasing number of folks around me are unsettled by the fact that a lot of people in the world are yelling, screaming, shouting, and stamping their feet, and are no longer communicating. There is often good cause to let off steam, but that’s a whole different discussion.

If you have read “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt, then you understand what it is we’re talking about: that people seem to have this thing that they are absolutely, unequivocally, irreducibly right. Their perspective and opinion is the only one that matters, and boom! you had better darn well believe it. 

Well, that’s not a society. 

That’s not a community. 

And you cannot have classical music in an environment where there is no society or community. You’ve got to have other people participate in music because it’s a form of communication. 

Most people view music as the language of emotions, a way to express emotions. It’s a way to share emotions. It’s a way to help other people understand their emotions. It is a fundamental form of communication between human beings that doesn’t require words or symbols. But the point is, you actually need at least two people in order for music to mean anything. 

So with people literally pushing each other aside and just yelling and screaming and walking away, it’s very difficult, indeed, for any music to get out at all, let alone help people communicate. 

A lot of people are struggling

Yes, of course, we’re watching tons of stuff online, and you can listen any time you want to specific pieces of classical music. And although we know the in-person experience is very, very different to a recording of the same kind of music, you can still be affected by it. But a lot of people are struggling not having the in-person moments with music, including classical music. 

So we’re not communicating with each other right now using music, but what I’m noticing is that we’re also not communicating with each other generally, across the board.

So let’s address not so much that wonderful book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” but reflect what’s actually happening in the world today. And point out that we are losing friends. 

I have recently seen a number of people unfollow or unfriend each other on Facebook – friends who used to be best buddies and know each other well. But because of a new or particular ideology or expectation, they are choosing to no longer converse and be a part of each other’s lives. Instead, they are just pushing away everyone with a different worldview. It’s the opposite of what Dale Carnegie’s book was supposed to help with.

Which is where this topic comes from: “How to lose friends and infuriate people.”

Read more in part 2, coming soon.