I’m not gonna lie, finding people to collaborate with is tough. Being in a band or an ensemble, particularly if you end up performing and touring, is like being in a marriage – you not only have to get along with others creatively, but you have to be able to get along with them personally. Easily half the bands I’ve been in have ended because of someone’s ego, mine included. I’m guilty, too.
In my last video I pointed out the three main keys to collaborating successfully over a long distance:
Guess what, you’ll need those for working relationships in your immediate physical vicinity, too! Though, over a long distance, I’d argue that it’s easier to achieve these points. For me at least, the ability to take my time makes a huge difference. I can actually listen to or watch whatever it is I’m giving feedback on in way more detail, and in turn give constructive criticism in a proactive way. In person, many times you’re on the spot, and while it’s easier to capture a raw instinct before you can think too much about it, it’s also a lot harder to step back and stay objective.
Learning how to give and receive constructive but honest feedback is one of the most important things that you can learn how to do in life. Useful _constructive_ criticism doesn’t focus on things being “right” or “wrong”, but rather presents concrete ideas on how something could be achieved more easily or more effectively in another way. It’s important to note that the best constructive criticism doesn’t simply point out an issue, but also presents a potential solution to it.
If you don’t have a solution to the problem, then it might not be worth pointing out the problem unless you’re willing to brainstorm together with the other party.
Not Just What, But _How_ You Say It
The old adage goes, “don’t shoot the messenger”, but the best messengers set themselves up for success by presenting the news in a way that the other person won’t take offense to it. I’m not saying that you always have to sugar-coat things, but being aware of how you come off when you present opinions will only make working with others easier and more effective.
My best suggestion: It helps when you know who you’re talking to. Remember, everyone’s different – some people can handle bluntness and some people can’t. Generally speaking, us artists are emotional creatures, and some of us must be treated with a higher degree of sensitivity than say, an engineer or a stock trader. That’s not to say there aren’t sensitive engineers or stock traders out there… but if you’re coming off as emotional or aggressive with feedback or suggestions then your point might get lost in the delivery. Learn the difference between passion and emotion and try to see yourself through someone else’s eyes.
Sometimes, It’s Just Not A Good Fit
…and you’ve gotta accept that. Some people just don’t work well together. Whether it’s egos, personalities, or expectations clashing, if it’s not working then don’t force it. Come to a mutual agreement about where a good place to leave a project is, and leave it there. Don’t just brush off or ghost the other person, don’t hound them down, and definitely don’t publicly shame them.
Projects come and go, and you’ll find someone new with whom to start something new – maybe even better!