By Bree Gordon, MT-BC

I want to start this post by stating that my experience with creating and maintaining relationships will likely not look the same for everyone.  I recognize that the way someone interacts with others is unique to that person.   While the point of this post is to look at the effect music has had on how I form social connections, I understand that my extroverted personality and independent Virgo tendencies play a big role in my relationships.  Some may argue, too big of a role. ;)

Recently I’ve received feedback on my ability to communicate with others in various settings: one the radio, at a social gathering,  in a store and in front of a room presenting.  As someone who often presents on the topic of networking and branding, my surface response was, “I’m a saleswoman!”  Although, while I continue to fight the stigma of the “dirty S-word”, that term did sound a bit distant when I said it out loud.  I can talk to people of various ages and backgrounds because I’m in sales?  Probably not.  But then why else would I find ease and, dare I say, enjoyment in situations that commonly bring such anxiety?  Well, probably because I’m a musician.  And furthermore, a vocalist.

Is there anything more exposing and vulnerable than using your voice?  As someone who has mis-sung the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner in front of hundreds, I can tell you, there is not.  So why keep doing it?  Why continue risking the awkwardness of a social interaction gone wrong or a sing-along gone sour?  This is when I realized it’s not about my skills as a salesperson, it’s about my experience as a musician.  For decades, my experience making and appreciating music has taught me that the best rewards exist when we step into the unknown.  When we listen to that album for the first time, see that band perform live and unscripted, open our mouths to sing without knowing how we will blend with those around us and put a pen to paper without knowing what words will materialize.  As a music therapist this gets even better as we walk to into a room without knowing how our patient will respond.  These risks and uncertainties fuel, excite and empower me in everything I do.  These experiences encourage me to be flexible, to remain open and to look for the positive.  Music has never let me down so how can I not assume the best in other interactions?

As an extrovert with “leadership” tendencies, I had an interesting experience this past weekend.  I was repeatedly in situations where I knew next to no one.  I couldn’t lead the group, I couldn’t anticipate the needs of others.   I didn’t know them.  I couldn’t be the band leader here, I had to be the second clarinetist (it’s been awhile….).  I relied on my musicianship.  I was authentic, I was exposed and I was creative.  And more importantly, I listened at the rests.

If social interaction is not your forte (pun intended), but you connect with the idea of being a musician or music appreciator, maybe consider how your relationship with music can impact your relationships with others.  Music, like people, can be unpredictable, changeable and intimidating but also comforting, exciting and rewarding.  Assume the same for a new relationship.  Step into the unknown.  Lean into the improvisation.  Aren’t we all just making it up as we go along, anyway?