How to deal effectively with difficult people in the choir - even if you've always hated conflictDec 06, 2021
Sometimes I wish that working in church required going through some kind of conflict-resolution training.
Or - even better - hostage negotiation, because...
Have you ever felt like you're trapped in a conversation-gone-bad and you have no way out?
The other person might be saying things that are:
But all you feel that you can do is grin and bear it.
If you're a member of the Gorbik Method family, you know that one of the most popular questions we get at our monthly webinars is: “What do I do when a singer/parishioner/priest says XYZ.”
There’s a very good reason for it, because…
I hate to break it to you…
But especially when you’re in any kind of position of power (hello, choir directors!), you inevitably experience attacks and pushback.
And it’s often very hard to know what to do.
It might be: how do I address a singer who thinks they should be the choir director
How do I talk to my priest about instituting a policy of who’s allowed in the choir loft
How do I address a singer who lashes out at me during the service?
Sadly, the fact that we are all Orthodox Christians doesn’t prevent us from acting like sinful humans. We just can’t help ourselves sometimes. Maybe it’s our hormones, bad mood, problems at work…
Whatever caused your singer(s) to attack you - there might be a good reason for it.
And it’s good to have compassion. It helps you get over the incident, pray for your opponent, and center yourself.
But compassion alone rarely solves the problem.
What you need are tools you can use to know exactly what to do in a tough situation.
What if I told you that you can:
- Diffuse any tense situation
- Know what to say when you’re being falsely accused
- Deliver bad news (ex: tell a choir member they can no longer sing)
- Negotiate a pay raise
- Quickly build rapport with your opponent
- Ask a potentially explosive question without any bad consequences
And a lot more.
The bad news is, there are a lot of tough situations you as choir director or singer can face.
The great news is - there is a simple system anyone can use that will help you in any of the above situations.
Let me tell you what happened to me recently.
It was Saturday night and we were singing vespers.
It’s one of my favorite services because of how quiet it usually is. The tempo is so much more relaxed than at Liturgy. And you can slow down and really focus on the text of the texts you are singing.
We were chanting a beautiful Byzantine stikehra. It sounded simple enough, yet there were these unexpected little notes that changed the melody from “nice” to stunning.
We made it to about the middle of the stikhera when I heard an overpoweringly loud voice from downstairs - roaring along so loudly that we felt completely overpowered.
Suddenly we became the background, and the parishioner downstairs became a (self-proclaimed) soloist.
What’s more, he was singing somewhere around the melody, going flat or sharp as the mood hit him, and missing the crucial notes altogether.
It was painful to hear.
This happened multiple times during vespers. I tried to catch his eye, ask someone to go and talk to him… Other parishioners were giving him dirty-ish looks, but all in vain.
He roared along until the very last sour note.
I decided that I had to do something about it. My biggest temptation was to complain to someone and hope for the best. But as I’ve been told way too many times: “hope is not a strategy...”
So I crossed myself, girded my seriously introverted conflict-hating loins, and went to talk to him.
You won’t believe it, but…
He was apologetic and understanding - which was not typical of him.
What’s more, approaching a potentially explosive situation is also very atypical of me.
Why did I do it?
Because I knew I could do it this time. I had the right tools.
Not only did I nip a potential problem in the bud. I also improved my relationship with this man.
That’s why I’m writing to you today.
Because I know how painful it can be to try talking to someone who doesn’t usually listen.
But you can do it. You just need the right tools.
And here’s the ultimate tool I can give you to handle any conflict situation:
(Full disclosure - if you buy this, I’ll get a couple of cents from the sale!)
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