Thursday, August 15, 2019

                                                                                                                                            Photo: Nadine Shaabana 

Sad to say, sometimes being shy and soft-spoken does not earn respect.  Trust me, I know.  I'm not a forceful, in-your-face kind of person.  When I have an opinion, I speak up quietly.  So, at times this gentle approach can be easy to dismiss and brush-off.

One time during my French class, several students discussed (in French) whether the Impressionist composers were influenced by the Impressionist artists.  Being familiar with the topic, I tried to voice my opinion and referred to the handout our instructor had given us, which stated that the Impressionist composers had been thought to be influenced by the art of the time.

Unfortunately, a fellow classmate got off track and started talking about the Romantic composers.  The Romantic composers created music in the early to mid-1800s, well before the birth of Impressionism.  The Impressionist composers created music toward the end of the 1800s and these musicians focused on mood and atmosphere much like the Impressionist artists.  

As much as I tried to steer the discussion back the Impressionist composers, this classmate ignored my comments and insisted that the Romantic composers were influenced by the Impressionist art.  It was as if he had said STOP, I don't give a rat's ass what you are saying, I'm not going to listen to you.  And in my head, I'm thinking, just because I'm soft-spoken doesn't mean I should be treated disrespectfully.  It was hurtful, but eye-opening.  In hindsight, I should have said:  "Lisez."  Read.  All he had to do was read the handout if he wanted to understand.

Maybe you're thinking: buck up Mrv.  Be more convincing, more forceful in stating an opinion.  But in this case, it was useless in trying to clear up the confusion.  This student only wanted attention.

It's not worth the energy to interact with people who enjoy being center stage.  What it really comes down to is, they have little self-awareness, because if they did, they'd see themselves as know-it-alls who really know nothing at all.  They simply are not interested in what others might have to tell them because they believe that they already have the information.
                                                                                                      Photo: Priscilla Du Preez 

Unfortunately, the same thing happens with a few of my mentees.  Sometimes when I give advice on submitting a manuscript, they brush my suggestions aside.  It doesn't matter to them if I have experience querying agents and having a book published.  They think they know better.  Then, these writers email me several weeks later wondering why they were rejected.

So, my first question to them is:  okay then, did you follow the guidelines?  Of course, they say yes which drives me crazy when I know that they haven't.  How do I know?  Some of my mentees submit to my publisher and I am aware of her specific requirements. When I ask them what they submitted, I find out they didn't include illustrations, which are mandatory for this publisher.  Still, they are in denial because they feel they couldn't have possibly screwed up.

Now, on the other hand...

Some people are earnest and they sincerely want to discuss a topic.  They want clarification.  They want to understand.  They may even want to apply what they learned.

One evening after ballet class, a fellow dancer confided in me that she had a hard time remembering the sequence of steps at the barre.  When the class does barre, we perform a combination of steps in a particular order to a piece of music.  It's mentally and physically challenging.  There can be a lot to think about and keep straight.  Otherwise, you may find yourself pointing your toes to the front when everybody else is pointing their toes to the rear, or rising on your toes when everyone else is doing a plié (a deep knee bend), or...well, you get the picture.

I have trouble remembering the steps at the barre, too.  So, what I do is count the number of each ballet movement in a sequence.  A combination may have two pliés, a grand plié, three tendues, and four rond de jambes, and an elevé so I focus on the numerical values:  two, one, three, four and one for this sequence.  When I explained this little trick, her eyes lit up.  She told me she liked this idea and that she appreciated learning a technique that had the potential to make the barre easier for her.

It's not often that I encounter (dare I say, stubborn) people who ask questions, but resist assistance.  When these circumstances arise, I think of my mother-in-law.  Years ago, she used to say, "What are you going to do?"

The answer is:  nothing.  Nothing will change close-minded people.

Luckily, most of my classmates and mentees are open to discussion.  They don't take offense when an opposing view is offered.  They enjoy hearing helpful opinions and suggestions.  Best of all, they are respectful.  And they listen...

even when I'm shy and soft-spoken.

✌ and