When to Remain Humble

When to Remain Humble

Hello. Now I know this isn’t a normal topic. However, I feel it is an important question towards Irish music, well… Any music and life in general. When should one accept a compliment? Like I know for me personally I can rarely ever accept a compliment sincerely for a fear of "ego stroking", but also because I just don’t see myself as "amazing". People tell me I’m "amazing" all the time, hell even people like Kevin Crawford have said it, but I never know how to respond. I mean I don’t think highly of myself at all, some would say I have self esteem issues. Often I feel like I’m just fumbling, but after I’m done, people tell me I did great. It confuses me… How could I have been so sloppy and still be considered good? I mean I know I’m decent, but how can I be "amazing" when I messed up a bunch? In other words I never feel like I did "amazing"… It just confuses me. I hope none of you take this as me bragging… It really isn’t meant to be. It’s more of a discussion of professional advice. Anyway I don’t know if this will get taken down because it’s not directly related to Irish music. I just want to see if anyone has any advice for how to accept compliments or how to see ones achievements for how great or "amazing" they are. Maybe I’m just a negative paranoid man… I don’t know..

Thanks!

Re: When to Remain Humble

Say "Thanks" discreetly and move on.

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I have learnt to accept all compliments with good grace and warmly thank the person doing the complimenting (no matter how undeserved they may feel to you at the time). In my experience compliments are genuine and sincerely-felt expressions of appreciation and should be accepted a face value. You do yourself (and the person complimenting you) a disservice if you don’t respond accordingly.
Further, you can take this as an opportunity to reflect on how far you have come on your musical journey. We are all pretty good at running a negative self-directed commentary on our shortcomings. And we are usually our harshest critics. But we can also take some pleasure in our progress.
Be kind to yourself, respect the other person, and enjoy the compliment.

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Very well put Pauloz!

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Say, “Thankyou for saying so. Would you like to buy a CD? And do you know where to after show party is?”

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Yes, when someone makes a compliment, it’s often natural to wonder what the catch is.
Of course, the person making the compliment may just "being nice" or only referring to one particular aspect of your playing. It’s also possible that he/she may not have much of a clue about the music but we shouldn’t value or devalue a compliment on this basis.
The worst case scenario is that the person giving the compliment is just being sarcastic but, even then, it’s best not to rise to the bait. Just acknowledge the person and move on.

Whatever the circumstances, receiving a compliment is surely better than *uninvited* criticism. Even if and when we deserve this, it’s seldom welcomed.

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When I was studying under a flute teacher, he would ask his students the next class after a recital how they felt they did and their take away from the recital, and the students always focused on what they did poorly or what they needed to improve on. But he always complemented on what they did well. I think he was always in a better position to see growth.

I say this because we (people in general) usually focus on small parts where we mess up but we can often fail to look at it in context. Audiences are usually better at seeing much more than we do. So it is good to note where we can improve, but it is important to look at the whole context and recognize “maybe the whole of what I did was good” and then keep working on what we identify as important to improve for ourselves.

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I agree with minijackpot, "thanks" and move on. And, try not to forget that we live in a world where every person, place, thing, or idea is "amazing". If you play in front of an audience, even an audience of one, you’re supposed to be good. Like "self-esteem" you get to be "amazing" for showing up. Learn to hear the inner voice. Live in the real world. If you’re any good you’ll know it. A real compliment is specific. You don’t need to be "amazing" and chasing that is a wast of time.

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What are you doing afterwards? Can I have you phone number?

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When receiving a compliment from a civilian (non-musician), I think it helps to keep in mind that civilians tend to be in awe of anyone who can play a musical instrument at any level of competence. That’s how I remember to be humble when dealing with a general audience at a performance, or someone walking up with a compliment at a pub session. They may not be awed by your technical skill and interpretation of the music. They may just be amazed that anyone can play an instrument at all! So it’s "thanks" and move on.

Compliments from other musicians are in a different category, but here again it might be because they don’t play your particular instrument. If they do play your instrument, it might be a reflection of skill gradient — maybe they haven’t been playing as long as you have. With someone that has more experience and is a better player than you on the same instrument, it can be difficult sometimes to figure out the difference between compliment and encouragement, which aren’t quite the same thing. Anyway, in all those cases I just say "thanks" and move on. My own judgement of how well or badly I’m playing is the only thing that really matters.

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Your wording, "ego stroking" is very appropriate. I suspect all of us like ego strokes, especially if the skill is something we have worked to achieve. Ego stokes can encourage one in his efforts, a good result. Sometimes though one must temper the compliment. When I was playing GHB I’d occasionally receive great compliments which praised me far beyond my ability. I let these go as the person giving the compliment was perhaps excited by a very unusual encounter. If the compliment was more balanced I took it as encouragement and some satisfaction that my practice time had amounted to something. This was especially so if the compliment was from the PM or a bandmate.

As you said accepting a compliment graciously can be difficult. Perhaps it a social skill that needs to be developed like any other. Because of adverse aspects of my formative years I too often find a sincere compliment hard to accept and will immediately point out some fault to diminish the compliment. This same past influence also often makes me exaggerate even minor criticism, though it may be spot on and given by a person in position to make such a comment, the PM or a bandmate more skilled than I.

As other posters have said, just say, "Thank you." and leave evaluating the compliment for reflective time at home.

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The magic words:

“Thank you, that was very kind of you! I’m glad you enjoyed the music.”

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Hey, even an advanced musician can say that an intermediate one (or even a beginner) is amazing at their level (and mean it). Musicians of any level can give appreciation - we know it when we hear it, right? There’s a lot more to musicianship than just play a tune successfully or mess up. Sense of pitch, drive/lift/swing/rhythm/pace, tone, variations, ornamenation, creativity and the list goes on.

A simple "Thank you" or "Oh, I’m glad you liked it" works fine (even if it feels awkward - the "Amazing!" comment and how you interpret it is context dependent).

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Another good option is to ask “what did you like?” This allows you to process exactly what they think you are doing well.

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On the inner, self-judgement side of accepting compliments:
1) you know better, Kellie. Just trust yourself and keep going
2) …, but do yourself a favour by keeping the gap between audience’s and your own expectations about your playing at a reasonable level. ‘All-or-nothing’ rarely is a viable long-term strategy.

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I had a similar experience when I was first starting out. People would give me compliments that I knew I didn’t deserve. I think it was a mix of both being impressed with my progress when I hadn’t been playing all that long as well as wanting to be positive and encouraging to me. But it always felt patronizing to me. And then a few years later, I was in a session with some young children that were playing pretty well, and I realized that I was maybe coming off as patronizing as I was telling them how great they were… I even posted a thread about it. https://thesession.org/discussions/7161

But in the end, you just need to graciously accept the compliment while still staying humble. I have watched a number of players get a little full of themselves when they hit a certain point in their playing. It happened to me too, and it was just when I got past the "beginner hump" and started feeling like I could play music and make it sound pretty good. But all it takes is being around really great players to put you back in your place. And then you’ll realize that most of the really great players are still humble and self deprecating about their music.

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Anyway ‘remaining humble’ implies that is one’s default condition! Erm…?!

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The best reply is "you’re too kind".

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Verbally accepting a compliment is simply being polite.

Taking a compliment to heart is different, of course. And that is something only you can figure out. The previous posts have addressed most of the various types of compliments, so I dont have much to add there. But I will say that even Joe Sixpack can give you a compliment and have it mean something. The compliment may not mean that you are a good player, but it *does* mean that you brought a little joy to somebody’s day. It is fine to take pleasure from that.

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Re: When to Remain Humble

Hello, Austin.

Be comfortable in yourself. You are you. Respond as you would want others to respond to you.
People are not always so comfortable, not always willing to act naturally. In other words it is a
common experience not always knowing *what to do* in social situations.

You have a good heart and with that you can get through the self questioning, you can realise where you fit in
a little more each day; smile, & there you go… joining in this bewildering experience we call humanity.

It doesn’t matter what you say. It only needs to be you. That’s what sharing is.

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Being a self-critical person myself, I have little to offer you. I guess, for me, I’ve always made sure to express gratitude. Sincerely being grateful for a compliment balances any rising ego. Accepting a compliment isn’t a crime. Just like being confident, or sure of yourself isn’t a crime. It’s ok to know what you’re capable of. It’s actually pretty important to have a solid understanding of your own level of skill and ability, for numerous reasons.

Understand that as a musician, you likely have a "different set of ears" than the majority of your listeners. Even physically being at your instrument sounds different to you than it does the audience. But generally speaking, you listen to yourself differently. You know all of the little mistakes you make, and you’re always aware of your shortcomings, and you know when you stopped practice early, or took a break for the day. But nobody cares about those things except for you, and if you’re in a band, I guess your bandmates. The listeners are just glad you’re playing something they know, something they like, something that makes them feel something.

The only crime you can commit from being confident is to stop developing your talent. To stop working and learning, because you think you’re the best. To stop asking questions because you think you know it all. Music can be a humbling or gratifying experience. Accept the compliments when they come. Because you never know when you’ll be blind-sided by a kid half your age with twice your talent.

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I had thought that one of the unwritten rules of sessions was ‘No compliments’ - though people may say ‘Thank you for your music’ as if the music can be praised but not the person. But this post has me wondering whether maybe it’s because I’m rubbish… As for the OP he sounds humble like passive-aggressive sounds passive.

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The Irish answer to someone who says "Sure yure Amaaaayyyyzin" is "Argh ya would you go away oha dat".

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‘Thanks, glad you liked it’ ……………………that’s enough

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I just assumed Kellie was posting about compliments from fellow musicians.
I completely missed that he may be referring to non-playing listeners.
I don’t know if that detail changes what I posted earlier. It’s yet another lesson about how
I assume too much when I should also be thinking outside the session musicians.

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Reading through the lines - it sounds like you think you might be amazing - but you’re a little unsure… really you may be asking - how can I truly gauge how well I’m playing?

If so - I’d ask a trusted musician to be frank with you - and be accepting of all that comes.

I didn’t know how good I was and had a real paranoid feeling- like maybe I’m very competent or maybe I’m irritating everyone. I had a great experience of some very positive and clear feedback from a great player of my instrument - this helped assure me I was on the right track. I’d suggest that asking for honest feedback can help - if you are sincere and ready to hear it.

I’ve seen players playing for years and reaching a hump - I can’t help but wonder if this comes from a feeling of ‘making it finally’ or a feeling that ‘I’m amazing.’ You’ve probably figured out that you never ‘make it’ - at least you’ll never feel that if you’re doing well.

Oh - and more quality is better than more repertoire- but the latter supports the first!

I know you’ve had your sights set on ‘the dizzying heights’ since you started - the best way to get there is honest and rigorous self criticism - and an unforced love of the tradition and music.

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"Oh - and more quality is better than more repertoire- but the latter supports the first!"

This is so true! I’ve been able to get past a few plateaus in recent months, but some things required me to improve my technique, and other things required me to learn more music. The last few weeks, I’ve been taking song requests from a bar that I perform at; So I’ve been learning music that I’ve never heard before and have had to learn in a short period of time, in stacks! It’s invigorating to see how it is impacting my playing, but also makes me a little ashamed that I haven’t done this for so long.

In the same vein, after the excellent advice I received on one of my posts for critique and criticism on concertina, I was able to develop some skills I couldn’t before. Since, I began to work more on my repertoire, and now after working through a few overdue tunes, things have gotten much simpler for me. But a good friend of mine brought me back to focusing on technique with a challenge he presented to me. I’ll get into that in my next post.

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The music is important but you aren’t.

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Or perhaps I should say the music is important but we aren’t. That’s why we say ‘Thank you for your music’ rather than ‘Thank you for your playing’.

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When i started playing i was struck by the fact that many, not all, of the really good players were quite arrogant when they got compliments. I always thought this was really rude and hurtful to people, usually non musicians, who had gone to the trouble of making a comment and leaving themselves open to this rudeness. Now I can play and do get complimented quite a lot. I always make a point of thanking the person, often shaking hands and you can see it is a very positive experience for them. Music is after all supposed to be a joyful experience. It is, by definition wrong if through music someone’s feelings are hurt

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Another thing!
If any punter ever offers you a pint, say, ‘Yes please!’ straight away, no hesitation!
They are only asking in order to temporarily bathe in the reflected glory and prolong their experience of being slightly star struck. So never let them down. Being polite and saying no just gives them a feeling of rejection.
And being a struggling muso, I expect you could do with a free pint.
(of course one may have to be bored dung-less for a few minutes but hey!)

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Yhaal House, the legal drinking age in Ohio (where Kellie lives) is 21. I think he is still under age.
But I could be mistaken.

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And the point is AB?

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Compliments are always nice but their nuances have been well-explored above.

As a guitarist, I feel that the only compliments worth savouring are from other guitarists that I respect as players.

But…any positive feedback is better than none!

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"You’re sounding so good now." Said in a kind of patronizing way.

Now? How did I sound last year? (and at the time I hadn’t touched the damned instrument for about a year, so it wasn’t as though I was practicing and improving)

There are ways of giving compliments that seem genuine; others patronizing that make you feel more insecure. It’s all in the context. I usually say, "Uh, cheers," in an awkward way in either case.