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Accepting Praise – Gracefully!


When we perform we always want to do our best. I know that as a performer and teacher. I have never met a musician who said to themselves, “I want to go out there and mess this up! “ That doesn’t mean that our performances will always be our best or that we won’t make mistakes. 


I have heard many a performance that has been amazing and wonderful even with a few ‘mistakes’ When I take the time to go up the a performer to say “I loved that, you were great!” I mean it. They appreciate it and I feel good that I shared my appreciation of their performance with them. Once I was walking along the street, taking my very new baby out for a stroll (this was many years ago) and a woman stopped her car, got out and came over to me and asked if I was a flutist. I said “yes” and she said that she was sure she recognized me, did I play a few months earlier at such and such a recital. I once again replied “yes”. She thanked me and told me that she loved my sound and loved the performance. This was months later!! I was astonished and very pleased that she would make such an effort to compliment me. I thanked her and had a smile on my face for days over that!


Taking praise well is often something one has to learn! Over the years I have noticed that students tend not to take praise well. I have heard, on numerous occasions, a younger performer being given a compliment and instead of saying “Thank you” they proceed to say things like “Oh no, i was terrible” or  awful, bad or some such negative thing.. The person who has given the compliment often reassures the performer that they were indeed “good” or wonderful and enjoyable to listen to, yet once again the performer will not accept the compliment and will go on about how bad something was in their performance. 

That is not the way to accept a compliment. Even if the performance had a mistake or two that person went out of their way to compliment you. You need to say “Thank you” with a smile on your face! By not accepting their compliments you are essentially telling them they are wrong and don’t know what they are talking about!! I get tired of trying to reassure a performer if a compliment is received with a negative comment, it’s really rather rude too! It’s not that the performer in question is trying to be rude, far from it, but that’s what it ends up being sometimes! 

I have seen many a student, at festivals and in recitals, make a face after their performance as they leave the stage. I know that they will probably be one of the kids who won’t take a compliment well. I want to run up to them and say “Hey, smile and be glad that you have shared your music with us today! That took time, energy and courage!!  And if someone compliments you later say Thank you!!”. 

Why do we react negatively to a compliment? : Probably for several reasons. Perhaps we are embarrassed about a mistake, or feeling shy at being singled out. Perhaps we are not wanting to be seen as conceited. Maybe we are trying to tell the world that, yes, we noticed out mistake or two and because of that we don’t deserve any praise. That is the true mistake!

Truthfully, the person might not have noticed any “mistakes”, the performance as a whole is what people react to. If they did hear a mistake they have obviously accepted it as something not important in the grand scheme of things! There is no such thing as a perfect performance but there are excellent and awesome performances out there! Imagine if I had reacted in a negative way to that woman who stopped me all those years ago. If I had said “oh no, it really wasn’t all that good” She would have gotten back in her car, perhaps feeling like an idiot for even stopping!! 

Learn to take praise gracefully after a performance! Say things like “Thank you very much” or “It means a lot to me that you liked my performance” . Do NOT respond negatively, it looks bad on you and puts the other person in a difficult spot. Save your worries about your performance for your teacher. He/She will help you sort through what you might need to work on and if they heard the performance will tell you if your assessment is correct. People tend to over criticize themselves without being positive about what was really good and wonderful about the performance.

It might be difficult at first to just say “thank you” and if need be, practice saying it! Even if you don’t feel it, say “Thank you”! It shows good performance manners and confidence. It puts people at ease, and when you can accept compliments it makes you feel good as well. 

Be good to yourself and your audience! Accept praise, gracefully!

Michelle Coon

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