Monday, July 20, 2015

Excuses, revisited.

When I was newer to SJT, the new members used to have a meeting every six months with all of Staff.  I was told flat-out that I needed to stop making excuses when someone called me out for something I was doing.

At the time, it was hard to hear, but what was I going to do, make excuses?  Ha!

It made me think a lot, though.  Excuses were my natural reflex when someone told me what I did wrong or needed to do better.  Not getting on stage fast enough?  Oh, it's because there's too much stuff going on off-stage that kept me from getting out earlier.  Getting off in my solo?  The back row wasn't loud enough.  Forgetting to move a piece of equipment?  Someone was distracting me.  Oy.  I can't imagine what it was like to give me comments when I kept doing that!

I don't personally get a lot of excuses from people when I'm teaching taiko-stuff, because normally the things I'm teaching are new songs, solo drills, new members, etc.  But in the dojo, there have been students who always give me an excuse when I tell them to do something/stop doing something.  It's really hard to keep trying to teach them; after months of getting excuses in response, as an instructor, I tend to stop expecting anything from them.

In taiko, making an excuse sometimes sounds like one is more important that what's going on around them - that other people need to change, not them.  As for me, I'm not saying I've done a 180 and never make excuses, but for the most part I can take a comment, acknowledge it was my fault and/or can fix.  That way, the issue is addressed and everyone can move on.

One of the best ways to get someone to stop doing something is to make them see how it looks to others.  For some things, like kata issues, making weird faces, overhitting, not enough ki etc., showing video often helps.  For something like this, which is more about personality and group dynamics, it's a little harder.  They have to ask themselves how they'd respond to the same treatment. They have to step back and wonder if that behavior is making them better or holding them back.  How to get someone to ask these questions of themselves?  Well in my case, direct comments did it.  To others, they might need a taste of their own medicine, so to speak.

Yes, sometimes things are happening that are out of your control that affect what you're doing.  Sometimes you need to "defend" yourself in these circumstances, sure.  But when a person's go-to response is to make excuses, they tend to lose people's respect and it's harder to for teachers to want to keep teaching them.

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