Thursday, February 19, 2015

What Our Friends Say

Despite our relationship, he gives incredible feedback.
I've been to a lot of shows over the years, mostly plays and burlesque, but I've also been to my fair share of concerts. I've been with the band, in the band, in the show, producing the show, seeing the show. I've been around live entertainment since I started public school.

It's very educational to watch the audience during a performance. You can see who really engages and involves the audience, and you can see who alienates, confuses and/or doesn't appeal. What is especially fascinating is watching friends of the performers. They're always so enthusiastic and supportive and encouraging, even when the number seems sub par. Do you have those friends who come up to you after the show and tell you that you were greaaaaaaaaat when you know you sucked? Do they always give you the thumbs up when you actually want some feedback you can use?

People are friends with us because they are attracted to us. There's something within you that appeals to your friends. It may be the qualities and viewpoints you have in common, like you both love football and voted for the tallest person in the last election. It may be the qualities that you have that they with they had, like you stand up for people and have incredible parallel parking skills. The important thing is that they're your friends because they dig something about you. Why would you be friends with someone who isn't attracted to you, doesn't like you at all?

Your friends see you with Friend Goggles. They see the qualities they admire, and they see all of the awesomeness that draws them to your circle.  Just like a lover will see the best of you, your friends do the same. They've got your back, so why would they see you as anything less than the coolest?

Friend Goggles are tricky when you're asking for feedback. As a performer, you get feedback through the friend filter of "you were sooooo gooooood." That admiration and identification doesn't give you the feedback you seek. It can be frustrating to not get the advice you seek. It can also be frustrating to learn from a not-friend that your work could genuinely use some improvement. (Not-friends aren't always delicate and caring when they critique your work.) Sometimes you just need the support of your friends so you feel good about putting yourself out there as an artist, and that's not a bad thing.

So how do you hear what you want from your friends? Let them know before they open their mouths with feedback that you're so happy that they're supporting you. It's valuable to have a support network. If you want genuine observations of how your act can improve, be specific with your request. (I'm a huge fan of precision of language so there can be no confusion.) "I'd really like to know what you liked best and what you think I could improve about my act. Can you email me tomorrow?" Be clear about what feedback you want and how you want it.

Treasure your friends for supporting you, and be smart about taking the feedback you get from them. If you're asked to give a friend feedback, I have some recommendations for you here and here.

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