For lots of musicians, navigating relationships with bandmates often proves to be more difficult than writing songs, promoting music, or performing on stage. Touring around the country and pouring money and countless hours into a band can precipitate tense conditions between members because the stakes are so high. Learning how to bring up tough topics with your bandmates isn’t an option if you’re planning to make music with the same project over the long-term. Here are five tips to help.
Approach conversations with empathy
If someone had to have a tough conversation with you, how would you want them to speak to you? Embracing empathy when it comes to bringing up tricky subjects with the musicians in your band can help you figure out how to best talk to your bandmates. This won’t always make things easier on your end, but it will help tough conversations go as smoothly as possible.
Leave emotion out of it
Easier said than done, right? When emotions run high in bands, it can be tempting to let anger, fear, and hurt dictate how difficult conversations are handled. Rather than jumping into a conversation with the intent to win, prove a point, or hurt someone, take some time to figure out your own emotions first. If you’re upset, hurt, annoyed, or feel like something big has to change with the musician in question, why? Your emotions are valid. Acknowledge them, feel them, figure them out, and then sit down to talk.
Figure out what you want to say and how to say it
Coming into a difficult conversation without a plan can lead to some major problems. Sure, not every conversation can or should be planned between bandmates, but if you know something major needs to be addressed, it’s best not to take an improvisational approach. If you can, write things down or discuss what you want to say with someone not in your band beforehand. This does a couple of important things. First, it helps you to get whatever’s been banging around inside your head out and in the open. Second, it helps you discern your feelings and narrow down what’s bothering you and what needs to be done to fix it. If you’ve got a major conversation on your hands that has to happen, don’t come to it without knowing what you want or how you really feel.
Be as kind as possible
Kindness isn’t weakness. It’s not the act of smiling and soldiering on when things aren’t okay. Kindness happens when one person is considerate and respectful of the other. Making a real effort to be kind during difficult conversations will help you get the most out of the confrontation. This especially applies to musicians with real anger and justified rage. For example, right now you might 100% believe you can’t work with a bandmate ever again. Will you feel that way in a week or year? Maybe, but kindness will leave that door open in case you ever change your mind.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.