The Stickler/The Heckler

October 1, 2010

In most groups, you’ll find at least one of each of these people, although they exist more in adult groups than in groups of kids. Depending on your style of leadership, you may just want to shut these types down so as not to deal with the time wasting element. But in my adult groups I find these two types can actually be extremely helpful.


The stickler is your best friend, if your ego can handle it. The stickler knows just a little more than you about what’s going on, and can hear mistakes before you do. The stickler says, “Um, excuse me, but the second sopranos are not singing the right note.” Or “did you want us to cut off at the same time? Because we’re not.” The Stickler can be hard to deal with if you’re one of those types who needs to appear right all the time. You have a thousand things on your mind. You can’t hear all the little things that go wrong. But the Stickler already knows his part, and can concentrate on hearing everybody else’s tiny mistakes and the things you’ve missed. I always thank the Stickler for her input. When the Stickler is right, you correct the mistake. When the Stickler is wrong, you gently explain why you’re doing it your way. I like to say, “I see what you mean. I think of it this way:…”  When you don’t have time to address your Stickler’s concern, you say: “We need to move on, but can you remind me of that the next time we run this piece? Do not get in a battle of wills with the Stickler. Don’t shut down the comments from your group; you want them to feel they can tell you when something is being missed. Your ability to take a good criticism shows that you have nothing to hide or fear and that your highest concern is that the show be good, not that you appear right. There is one guy in a company I work with who is almost always right. He could easily do my job. When he and I disagree I make a friendly bet with him in front of everyone. And when we get to tech week and his hunch about a cutoff has been proven right yet again, I tell the chorus, “Folks, you have to sing it correctly; Paul just can’t be right about this one.” It’s a friendly, low pressure way to make the chorus think about what they’re doing. And I love having Paul in my chorus.


The heckler is the one who is just having fun at your expense. It isn’t adding anything musically to the proceedings, just poking fun at what you’re doing. Maybe the person has noticed a verbal tic of yours, and points it out over and over again. You have to figure out whether there’s a real beef with the person. If there is, and the intention seems mean spirited, you need to have a talk with that person and try to clear up whatever’s behind it. If it’s entirely good natured, as these things often are, embrace it. Usually when someone makes a joke at my expense, I try to make the same joke about myself several times in the rehearsal. When you can laugh at yourself, things go better.


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