Sometimes the best way to see problems with yourself is to watch someone else act exactly like you do. The behaviors of other people doing just what you do should cause you to pause, reflect, and go “Don’t I do the exact same thing? Oh, that’s gotta change!”
I say this because I’m guilty of doing some of the things that bother me the most about other people. Taking yourself too seriously is certainly one of my flaws, one that I’ve spent the better part of the past 2 years trying to correct. I used to be really bad. Now it’s a less-frequent problem.
Here’s how I know I’m taking myself too seriously, and the problems it’s caused me in connecting with new people
I’ve been working in radio for a long time. I’ve been making a radio show in the same town for over a decade. That can lead you to assume that just about everyone knows about what I do. Not true, yet I used to think that if someone didn’t know what I did they must have been on another planet.
I used to get offended if someone who claimed to listen to the radio station I worked for hadn’t heard of The Appetizer Radio Show. Or, even worse, if someone asked about the food that I talked about on the show. I make this face when I’m confused (see left) that my wife calls my “angry rooster face.” That’s the face I used to make if someone made a comment about my radio show and said something about me talking about food. “I thought you said you listened to my show? I’ve never done anything about food specifically. What are you talking about???” would be the thoughts going in my head, but I would not say such things. Yet you wouldn’t have to struggle to see those thoughts on my face. This face and this look don’t hide too much.
Either way, my attitude was that of an asshole. I took myself way too seriously and potentially offended good-hearted people who might have otherwise actually given the show a listen. I assumed that since I was so passionate about my work, everyone who asked me about it must be too. I assumed that if someone showed the slightest bit of interest in my work, then they should know all about it and not need me to explain to them why it is important.
You know what they say about what happens when you assume? Except I’m just the one who was the ass.
Seeing the other side of the serious-taking-issue has revealed a lot of the negative side effects that this attitude can have. It’s also the exact opposite of grace and humility. There is a good chance that you haven’t read my About page, or looked up the articles I’ve written for Sonicbids, CMuse, or other sites, or heard all the episodes on the DIY Artist Route Podcast. That’s ok. Do I want you to experience these things? Yes, of course. Is it a prerequisite for us to connect? Absolutely not.
I’m saying all of this because it’s important for us to put our contributions and our stories into perspective. This is especially true as we’re trying to reach new people we don’t know with our work. I’m not the only music curator discovering excellent talent. I’m not the only radio host who has been showcasing indie and unsigned music for years and years. Several great music radio icons preceded the work I do. The same is true for artists and businesses.
You have a passion for your songwriting and the mission behind your music. However, there are other very passionate, talented, and inspirational songwriters who are changing the world.
Keep that in perspective. It’s great that you’re not alone. What is it about your work specifically that is remarkable? What completely unique and uncommon thing makes you stand out from others who are doing similar work? These are the pieces of your communication that need to come out with new people who are being introduced to your work.
Where I see Too-Serious play out the most
Music submissions are the prime place where I experience my old behaviors play out, and it’s mostly in a digital format. Not every artist who submits music gets accepted. This is true on every platform. When an artist sends an email to me that is full of links to videos or songs, I don’t always follow all of the links. I honestly don’t always spend 15-30 minutes diving into a band’s music, especially not when the sender is a person I’ve never interacted with before. Remember strangers and gold?
I may not read all of the sender’s bio either. And when I reply and ask specific questions to get the artist to tell me more about what makes them unique (or essentially sell me on why their music is attention-worthy), some musicians take that as an affront to their music. That’s not the case.
The reality is that I don’t know the artist (yet), and the first impression they’ve left is that they take themselves so seriously that someone who wants them to tell their story makes them upset. It’s an artist giving me their own angry rooster face, and expecting the interest to be natural and inherent. I hope this isn’t the response that other music curators are receiving when they interact and don’t instantly jump into the musician’s work. It may produce worse results.
Here’s the Takeaway to save face and the connection potential
Most new people won’t know your backstory, and they may not give you the attention time you seek at first. Instead of taking yourself too seriously and getting offended at what a stranger doesn’t give you right away, nurture the first spark of that interest. Build a dialogue. Approach the potential connection with grace and kindness. So many good things come out of a change in perspective and a better attitude.
That’s the win that comes out of this reflection. When we see ourselves in other people’s behaviors we want to see happiness and joy, and not something that leads to looking like the backside of a donkey. Donkeys don’t win beauty pageants, even social ones.
Grace and respect in meeting new people, and learning how to approach strangers in a way that builds their interest while also getting you what you seek is the subject of my debut book The DIY Musician’s Radio Handbook. Officially it’s out on May 3rd but you can grab the first 4 chapters for free now. Click Here.