Resolving conflict for someone else?

Conflict is healthy to a point but too much of it can get toxic and ultimately degrade the end-product in a band. What happens when conflict becomes so toxic between two individuals that they won’t even acknowledge each other in a rehearsal? More importantly, how does one rectify this sort of situation?

Several years ago, I was working as musical director for a small group and at some point along the way, a nasty tension developed between two of the vocalists. Rehearsal became excruciating due to one’s refusal to acknowledge the other and when words were spoken, they were extremely rude. This became problematic for me as the musical director because the product of the group was starting to suffer due to bad attitudes and rehearsal time being waisted on coaxing individuals into performing. Let me be the first to say that the problem isn’t just going to go away in many cases. It will only get worse if gone unchecked. I’m sure there are at least a few people who will read this and think, “well it’s none of your business what goes on between those two people.” Actually it is my business. Not the specifics of their problems, but rather the effect their “business” has on mine. I have a serious problem when rehearsal time is waisted and results in degraded performance. How might one deal with this kind of issue?

The best answer I can give (and the same one that was given to me by a close mentor prior to tackling the above scenario) is address it head-on. Think about what you are going to say prior to the discussion. You could even make a short outline to help keep yourself on track.  It is also very important to realize that your goal here is not to solve their personal issues. Rather, the goal is to help them understand that the problems have to be left at the door. This can be very difficult for some, but it will definitely separate the pros from the amateurs. During the conversation, I would caution against any sort of verbal assault as that can put people on the defensive. Accusations or taking a side can also add fuel to the fire. Try to keep the rehearsal productivity/end-product the focal point. Ultimately, even with all the respect and diplomacy in the world, some people will still get frustrated and possible walk out. Your task is to keep moving forward in those situations and not lose your cool. That could move right into another post . . .

I would love to hear your stories! Please feel free to share in the comments below!

 

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5 responses to “Resolving conflict for someone else?

  1. Great read…! I’ve never been good at separating grievances towards a band member from my music, gets hard to play even a single note, and unhealthy for me in the long run. Sadly, most of the time, the other person hasn’t been willing to talk it out so I’ve had to walk away before it gets to an unpleasant for myself or for anyone else. I strongly believe that there’s no room for personal grudges in music. Guess that makes me less of a pro for being too sensitive. But it only gets nastier if I try to ignore my gut and stick around… The time when the little voice at the back of your head says, “It’s time to leave,” it’s Never wrong. One thing’s a fact though… There are healthy arguments, and there are unhealthy arguments. This situation can be avoided altogether if you team up with mature, professional (extremely rare but possible) people in the first place who understand each other. If it does happen to occur, they sit and talk it out because to them, music is beyond all these little obstacles and the focus is always on getting there. If there’s no ego, no personal benefits, no greed etc, and those peoples’ primary goal is doing it JUST for the music (rest of the things are a bonus), then there’s no way it won’t work out. 🙂 Just my personal experience.

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    • This is a great “different side of the same coin” perspective and certainly something take into account. Everyone deals with conflict differently and sometimes walking away is the best thing to do. It all depends on the situation. It certainly doesn’t make you less professional though. If anything, you know yourself well enough to realize when your tolerance is maxed out. It is different for everyone. Thanks for bringing up the human element. 🙂 It is vital to any professional situation.

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  2. This is great advice Aaron! Everyone has dealt with some of these scenarios in one way or the other. What I’ve learned from my experience: when you work as a team, you have got to be open to new ideas, including the ones you tend to dismiss as totally stupid or counterproductive. Conflicts occur when people dismiss new ideas based on what they think is ‘the right thing to do’. Things works better when you work as a team and in phases. For example, the first phase would involve forming ideas, approaches and methods. Phase two can be qualifying them based on resources and time. Phase three can be implementing them. This minimizes the potential for conflicts and encourages teamwork and positivity. Just my two cents. 🙂

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    • I love your breakdown of the teamwork steps! What you said about new ideas is also spot on. Good teamwork relies on the proper harnessing of ALL the various abilities present within the team for the betterment of the final product. New ideas are no exception to this. While not every idea may work, they must be considered and taken into account. Excellent words, Anand! Thanks for sharing!

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