Encouragement without being Patronizing
I was having an email conversation today with a fine gentleman whose session I played at last night. He has two young children (don’t know their ages, but I’d guess 9 and 12). Both of them are really wonderful fiddle players for their age (inherited from Dad, who is truly great).
In our email conversation, we were talking about ways to motivate and encourage the kids. Since I have not been playing for all that long, I still have people giving me encouraging remarks like "wow, you sound great", etc. And that always grates on me a bit, because I know what I sound like, and I don’t consider it "great". It’s more like "acceptable". What those people tend to mean is "wow, you sound great for how long you’ve been playing", or "wow, you sound much better than you did last time I heard you play". So when I get a comment like that (from a fellow player), I always feel like I’m being patronized to an extent.
I heard a quote from a piper who said that the only compliment he ever got that he trusted was after a gig when a friend said, "you didn’t embarrass me." 🙂
But how do you encourage a beginner without coming across as patronizing? One of the ways might be to include them in the group and make them feel like they’re part of it all (which is what we really want most of the time as beginners).
And how do you compliment a great player without coming across as a brown-noser?