Buttons and Panels
How can you adjust emotionally to difficult people in a work setting? Such moments can occur between conductor and player or between two musicians in rehearsal to the point of interfering with the performance. Musicians are by nature sensitive people, particularly prone to being affected by conflicts. Maybe that led me to study neuro linguistic programming many years ago, and I have included it in my workshops ever since. I teach that no one can create an emotion or thought in you unless you invite them in. Someone might be rude or insulting to you, but how you react is your choice.
How is that done? I like to imagine that people have a breastplate with a row of buttons they can push to control their emotions. With friends and loved ones there is usually no need to guard your emotions, so the panel is open. You expect that privilege to be respected. If things go awry, a mental command can close the panel to remove the heat of the situation for all concerned. Only the individual has access to those buttons, nobody else.
An example of how it works: Once I was conducting a short opera of mine and one of the singers didn’t like what I asked for, so he rained insults on me, saying I didn’t know what I was doing. I slammed my panel closed fast, so he couldn’t get access to my buttons. When he finished, I calmly told him what I wanted and he simmered down.
Afterward another singer said, “How could you keep your cool when he was yelling at you like that?” By using my panel of buttons, the irate singer suddenly seemed like a stranger. I had closed him out of my emotional range. My detachment allowed me to hear what he was saying, so I understood what was bothering him and could explain what I wanted and why.
With a little practice, everyone can exercise this ‘panel control’ and maintain their emotional balance. It is especially helpful when working with others in a demanding performance setting like a symphony orchestra or other professional pressure cooker. The ability to keep a cool and rational head can be learned in more ways than one, but the panel control is a skill that is easy to understand and use. You can probably think of people, especially leaders you admire, for maintaining their balance when criticized. With this recipe, you too can do it.