Who is the “Cheerleader” in your life? Do you have more than one? Are you thinking; why should I even need one? We get criticism from others and from groups, for some of us, it’s almost constant. Wouldn’t you say, just thinking logically, that this criticism might need balance from the other side? In one of my recent voice courses, as feedback, one of the participants told me; “I find it really surprising how often and how honestly you give compliments, even to people you’ve just met”. Of course that was flattering, but I was surprised that he was surprised. Has it come so far in our culture, even our ‘training/teaching’ culture, that encouragement in the form of compliments has become such a rarity? I guess so.
You know how at a certain age kids make stuff, or do stuff for their parents and then show it with the obvious expectation of getting praise? In almost all cases, the “good enough parent” lavishes praise. “Wonderful!” “Fantastic!!” “How BEAUTIFUL!!!” I remember when my daughter was that age, it was almost more fulfilling for me than it was for her, just to see her face light up. In my model of the world this creative, resourceful, praise-hungry child lives within all of us. Even if this is only just a little true, it pays off greatly to get in touch with this need, in ourselves and in others. I seriously doubt that we need to worry that praise, compliments and cheerleading will get the upper hand in our lives and we’ll lose touch with reality. The criticism will still come, don’t worry. But wouldn’t it be great to have a regular source of unconditional love and support in the form of a cheerleader?
If your answer is yes, then it pays off to examine both what this would mean for us and how we can communicate this need to others. Think about the mentors and teachers in your life who’ve truly inspired you. Isolate the times they gave you true encouragement, supported you in ways that gave you a sense of your talent, of what you have to give to the world. Was it an outright verbal compliment? Was it a facial expression or body language? Was it a criticism, perhaps even harsh, that gave you sense of your own potential and your mentors’ dedication to it? Whether verbal, facial or gestural, coming in contact with memories like these tells us myriads about how we most like to be supported. Knowing that about yourself, allowing that about yourself, increases exponentially the chances that you’ll get it.
For whom are you a cheerleader? Another question whose answer has profound implications. I found when I started out teaching singing, that moment when a student gets it right and finds their own vocal beauty and balance, becoming aware of just how profoundly I was moved had great impact on the students’ learning. Every teacher finds their own optimum here, to be sure. There are some voice teachers where you get the sense that giving someone a compliment would truly endanger their health. Joking aside, everyone’s teaching style is different. I remember when I just started out teaching voice and vocal pedagogy at the university level, one of my colleagues told me that I was dangerously blurring the important line between teacher and student. I’d seen that teacher in lessons. She was quite competent but hardly ever looked at the student and seemed withdrawn into her own world while teaching. Some of her students thrived. Others reported in pedagogy class that they hungered for a kind word, a glance, some kind of emotional connection. The point is that for some students less connection with the teacher means more focus on singing itself. For others, singing means less without that emotional connection. My goal in teaching teachers has always been to find and embrace your own teaching style, yet at the same time be flexible enough to give the student what she needs. A balancing act, to be sure. And one that changes over time.
I know this to be true in other areas of training, teaching and leading as well. Different individuals and different groups need different levels of cheerleading. One thing’s for certain; WE ALL NEED IT SOMEWHERE! Getting in touch with your own cheerleading needs is synonymous with the desire to communicate this need with others. Not everyone. Some people are simply allergic to it. But communicating this need, in precise ways, to those close to you might make you vulnerable, but it opens you, your partners and the relationship itself to new inroads to intimacy. Especially in creative professions (which, in my world, seem to be more and more), this form of emotional transparency is like high-octane fuel for the production engine. Even if you find yourself in an environment where this is not viable, understanding your own needs means giving it to yourself in the form of an inner voice. Ok, maybe not for everyone, but definitely experiment with this for yourself. You may be surprised. You may find that giving in to your cheerleader appetite has you filtering your environment in completely different ways and, as a result, finding cheerleaders where you least expect it.
Evan Bortnick Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden http://www.musa-vocalis.de