Curb Your Enthusiasm

What happens when enthusiasm spills over into domination? Well-meaning input quickly becomes unwanted interference. And creativity suffers.

Public Meeting

I was having a meeting, the other evening, to discuss ideas for an upcoming fringe-theatre event. This was being held in a public place, indeed a public house. So, it should have been no surprise when our conversation was interrupted.

The person doing the interrupting was a very dear friend. One who loves to help and, once he gets the bit between his teeth, is unable to curb his enthusiasm. Which is terrific, except for when it becomes overbearing. And my friend, in this instance had clearly been enjoying the venue’s hospitality to the full.

Uninvited Collaborator

In fairness, he was trying to contribute positively to the discussion. He was keen to push me beyond the limitations of what I thought possible for this project. Again, this is unquestionably a good thing. And I was genuinely grateful for the input and enthusiasm for this project.

However, my uninvited collaborator had latched onto the last thing that had been said as he joined the conversation. He hadn’t taken the trouble to ask about the broader vision for the show. And, more crucially, he had then dominated the conversation to the exclusion of the two original participants.

Stifling the Flow

The net effect of this intervention was to stifle the flow of ideas. Aside from the fact it hadn’t been asked for, it used up much of what was a limited window of opportunity. Had this been an equal conversation, the new perspective would have been useful. We could have batted things back and forth and helped to move the project forward. But, instead, we were treated to a lengthy monologue.

Listen &Understand

As previously discussed, when we are working creatively with young people, we must be particularly careful not to dominate. Most will automatically defer to our ideas and opinions. And, if they do, they will – of course – then be stifling their own creative impulses.

As with my tipsy friend, it is clear that our intention is to help and push things forward. However, we should see this as being a collaboration. Children’s ideas and opinions must be treated as at least as valuable as our own. So, the key thing for us to do is listen and understand.

Disengaged & Demotivated

An excellent example of how not to do this has been provided by my son’s drama teacher. She is directing their school’s show and faces a tough job. However, she is controlling the performers’ every move, word and gesture. Which means the children are disengaged and demotivated.

In fairness to this teacher, there is a wide range of ability and motivation among the pupils concerned. But her own enthusiasm is overbearing, particularly for the younger children. They therefore no longer feel that they own their performance. And so, they have become unruly and disruptive. Which, of course, makes the teacher feel she needs to take even more control. And so it goes.

Patience & Understanding

Energy and enthusiasm are key ingredients for any creative collaboration. However, these must be tempered by patience and understanding. If our own innate excitement for a project leads us to take over the conversation, then it is no longer a dialogue. It may, indeed, quickly become a diatribe.

We all have the ability to feel hurt or slighted, especially within a creative setting. And one person’s empathy may be another’s take-over bid. So, get excited by all means. But curb your enthusiasm just enough to allow your pupils and/or collaborators the chance to show theirs as well.

Together, you can then create something of real worth.


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