How to be a Supportive Person in a Competitive World

We’re all drawn to people who uplift, encourage, and actively help us achieve our dreams. After all, why spend time and energy on Negative Nellys and naysayers (except those well-meaning family members we just can’t avoid) when you can surround yourself with positive vibes that help you get stuff done?

But support is truly a giver’s gain concept: if you want supportive people in your life, you have to be a supportive person.

Support has become something of a buzzword. We talk about supporting ideas, supporting policies, supporting the arts, when what we really mean is we agree with or appreciate those things.  Truly being supportive means giving encouragement and actively giving help to someone who needs it. Support requires action, not just thought.

Supportive - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Break the Lack Mindset

As professional musicians, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that another player’s success is our failure. After all, if they get the job, that means we don’t get it right? How can you genuinely support someone else’s ambition if it seems to preclude your own success?

Here’s the truth: classical musicians (and classical music in general) face a lot of challenges, but other musicians are not one of them! True, we are all vying for the attention of the public, but what we are battling against is the distraction of modern life – Netflix, Candy Crush, and the host of other easy entertainments that consume the few free hours people have after working long hours and caring for families. It’s simply so easy to sit at home with mindless entertainment these days, and that makes getting people out the door to see live music a challenge.

Understand that a rising tide lifts all boats. If you can create a thriving culture of live entertainment by supporting other players, you too, benefit. Everyone benefits. It isn’t an either/or; it is an and/also.

Everyone has a different gift to give. Respect and support the gifts of others without falling prey to the idea that acknowledging their talent diminishes your own.

How to Show Support

Obviously, showing up to watch performances is supportive, but how else can you encourage and help fellow musicians and the other people in your life?

1. Be an active listener: This applies to every interaction you have and is a sure way to gain people’s trust and admiration. When you’re having a conversation with someone, slow down and listen to what they are saying. Don’t use their turn to just think of what you’re going to say next. Avoid generic responses, maintain eye contact, and ask questions. And please, please, put your phone away.

2. Offer advice only when asked. This one can be tricky, especially if you see something that could use improvement. Though it’s true that tough love can be a form of support, it’s generally better to focus on the positive. Offer encouragement by telling someone what you appreciated about their performance, what you thought they did particularly well. Be authentic, don’t lavish generic praise on a performance you thought was merely ok, but do look for good things to encourage.

If you are asked for advice, remain positive. Instead of, “That middle section was rough,” try something like, “The first movement was great! If you can work on putting the same emotion into the second movement, it will be brilliant.”

3. Don’t gossip. This should be a no-brainer, but sometimes our lesser angels get the better of us, especially if we’re still caught in the trap of competition. When someone shares something with you in confidence, keep it to yourself. This applies to struggles and victories alike. It’s impossible to feel supported by someone who is talking being your back.

4. Share the wealth. If you hear of opportunities that would benefit others, tell them! “But what if they get it, and I don’t?” By being generous with encouragement and information, you are exponentially increasing the odds that others will reciprocate. Next time they may tell you about an opportunity that is a perfect fit for your gifts.

5. Work on your building your own confidence. When you believe in your talents and value what you do, it becomes so much easier to offer support to other people.

This is part of our series on the characteristics of attractive people. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to now.

If you are ready to learn more about how to build a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician, check out Concert University, and the free webinar that outlines 5 strategies for success.