Music is a language, a means of expression. It requires skill to convey emotion, mood, and depth. Feeling it is not enough. You must be a proficient musician to get your message across.

When I turned five, my dad began giving me piano lessons. He taught me to name the notes, count the beats, and use correct fingers. Soon, he taught me to play with both hands at the same time. And after a while, as if that wasn’t difficult enough, he told me that I had to make one hand louder than the other. Um, HARD! Those of you who have trouble chewing gum while walking (like me) will grasp the seeming impossibility of not only making your two hands do different things at the same time, but with varying degrees of force.

Of course, after years of practice it got easier. Eventually, I could tell upon first glance at a new piece of music which voice—either left or right hand—I needed to bring out over the other, and would automatically do so.

The same is true for our interactions with each other. To effectively communicate (or play piano) you must have more than one approach. Only this will make your words—or your notes—worth hearing. Who really wants to listen to a beginning musician, unless it’s your kid, bang on a piano? It might be cute, it might represent learning and growth, it might be remarkable for the kid’s age, but until you learn to “voice”—bring out one line of music over another when appropriate—it’s just noise.

When I tell people to vary their communication styles to fit the needs of the situation, they balk. “That feels unnatural,” they complain. “It’s just not my style.” They worry that they will come across as fake or inauthentic by using uncharacteristic nonverbals. And, well, it is a bit clunky at first. My early attempts at voicing piano pieces didn’t qualify as passionate, heart-melting music. But did I contradict my character or personality by trying? Of course not! I simply had not yet mastered the skill.

So, yes. At first it will seem awkward and contrived to do something different. But does that mean you shouldn’t try?

Sure, you could stick to your “comfortable” mode of communication, and continue to bang away discordantly at the proverbial piano. Or, practice bringing out the part of you that’s most appropriate in the moment, and begin living and communicating in harmony.

 

Change your communication, change your life.

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