Earlier today I was re-reading Partner Dance Success: Be the One They Want: What I Wish I Knew when I Started Social Dancing by Don Baarns. It’s good to re-read what you have about dance instead of always buying more books. Often new books will tell you the same thing and re-reading what you have will remind you of key things you have forgotten or reveal important things you missed last time. It’s also cheaper too.
However, that’s not the point of the post; just something I thought I would share.
This post is about how honest people will be with you when you talk to them about how you dance. This was a section of Don’s book. As he points out, people will always be polite when talking to you face to face. However, they will say all sorts of negative things about you behind your back.
Why does this happen?
Well first off, just think about the times you have done this. And then think about the times when you think others have done it to you.
Most likely, you were being polite. As your mother said “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”
Most of the time this helps us maintain a civil and functioning society. Skirting over the little things prevents people losing their temper, getting upset and then maybe getting into a fight. Chances are others were being polite when they lied to you too. Makes sense really.
But politeness like this doesn’t help you dance better!
The objectivity that we share with each other about other people is what will help people dance better. Once you know what problems you have – and we all have them – you can fix it and become an even better dancer. The dancer who gets told about problems and then fixes them is going to dance much better than the dancer who is continually being dishonestly lied to about how good they are.
Now what can we take from this.
First, honesty would probably be appreciated (in the long run) from others so we should try a bit more of it. However, you probably still have the sense of wanting to be nice and keeping everyone happy. That just means that you need to be more positive by talking about how much better someone can get and be constructive.
So how to be positive? Instead of saying to someone that there timing is poor, you can say that if the focus on hitting each note consistently, then they will have really great flow to their dance.
To be constructive, focus on the source of the problem and how to fix it. Try saying something like, “try being a bit more resistive when a give an arm lead” then see what happens. You can also be part of the issue so that you’re in it together “I feel like I am lost and not sure where is best to step next when I am lead through that underarm turn.” This sentence raises the possibility that you are missing something so it’s not really a case of you pointing the finger at another person. It also gives the other person something more to work with: either then or with a teacher later on.
Second, extract information from others. Don’t ask questions like “was that good?” These questions are always going to be answered with “yes” if you are good or just ok. They will be answered with “It was ok” or “not bad” if it’s bad. Try asking about something you’re worried about. And leave the window open for feedback. Try questions like: Do I seem off time; Was that figure different from what I was meant to do; Did that lead leave you unsure what I wanted; I could be standing up straighter couldn’t I? These questions make it much easier (or more comfortable) to give useful feedback while remaining polite.
In summary, be honest with others in a polite way by focusing on the benefits and trying to find the cause of an issue and use specific questions that lead the other person to give feedback that is actually useful to you.