You have probably heard the saying “nice guys finish last.” Quite possibly, you’ve experienced this yourself at some point in your life, where being “nice” and accommodating did not pay off.
Why is it that rude inconsiderate jerks seem to get ahead more than they ought to?
Are they onto something?
When power is good
Researchers have found that individuals who feel powerful behave in certain ways that tend to enhance success. For instance, they are more likely to take action towards their goals, to take risks, express their emotions, and ignore situational pressures.
When power is bad
Of course, there is a fine line between acting assertively and being a jerk. While the above behaviors can be positive, they can also manifest in some pretty negative ways as well. For instance, powerful individuals are more likely to interrupt others and invade personal space, ignore other people’s suffering, take more cookies from a common plate, be patronizing, cheat, take credit for others’ work, and treat others as a means to their own ends.
She did what she could, but left the audition convinced that there was no way she would get the role.
As it turns out, she received a phone call soon after with news that the job was hers.
Weeks later, she asked the casting director how it was possible that she got the part. He looked at her in surprise, and asked what she meant, saying she had a terrific voice, was a talented actor, and had a great audition. Yes, the dancing was a mess, but she didn’t apologize for it.
When apologizing is in bad form
How often do we apologize for our perceived shortcomings on stage? By carrying ourselves in a manner that communicates a lack of confidence, an expectation of failure, or uncertainty and tentativeness? By telegraphing our mistakes through facial expressions and body language? By mentally quitting on our performance after we miss a note?
Great artists make mistakes and have imperfect performances too. All the time, in fact. But you won’t find them apologizing for it in the midst of a performance.
You are on stage to catalyze within us a meaningful emotional experience. And wincing after every imperfection, looking sheepish, or otherwise communicating doubt/worry/insecurities about your performance does not enhance our experience, but instead engenders the sorts of emotions we don’t particularly want to feel when we go to a concert.
Telegraphing mistakes and responding negatively to mistakes can easily become a habit.
Instead, practice being more of a “jerk” onstage by refusing to apologize for imperfections no matter how egregious. Make the appearance of complete poise and command your default visual presentation, by working on this in run-throughs in the practice room. By reinforcing this in lessons, coachings, and low-key performances. By reviewing videos of performances to see what the audience sees, and ensuring you are sending the message you wish to send.
(And just to be clear so as to avoid any misunderstandings, this research should not be interpreted to mean that if you want to be a successful conductor you must act like a jerk towards the members of your orchestra…)
Performance psychologist and Juilliard alumnus & faculty member Noa Kageyama teaches musicians how to beat performance anxiety and play their best under pressure through live classes, coachings, and an online home-study course. Based in NYC, he is married to a terrific pianist, has two hilarious kids, and is a wee bit obsessed with technology and all things Apple.
After Countless Hours of Practice, Why Are Performances Still so Hit or Miss?
It’s not a talent issue. And that rush of adrenaline and emotional roller coaster you experience before performances is totally normal too.
Performing at the upper ranges of your ability under pressure is a unique skill – one that requires specific mental skills and a few tweaks in your approach to practicing. Elite athletes have been learning these techniques for decades; if nerves and self-doubt have been recurring obstacles in your performances, I’d like to help you do the same.
Click below to discover the 7 skills that are characteristic of top performers. Learn how you can develop these into strengths of your own. And begin to see tangible improvements in your playing that transfer to the stage.