Sometimes you need to have a conversation and don’t know how. You want to talk to a gallery director about submitting your work, or ask advice from a well-known curator, or get faster turnaround times from your website designer.
How do you have such conversations? First, have one with yourself. Be honest about what you are feeling and thinking, and try to separate the two. Strong feelings can get in the way of clear thinking, so first give voice to your frustrations by saying them out loud to an empty room.
Be clear about the results you hope to achieve. Do you just want to be heard or are you trying to solve a problem? In the examples above, the artist wants to establish or improve a relationship, and that requires planning what you want to say.
Don’t begin by explaining your own point of view. Ask good questions instead, and expect to spend at least half the time listening. For the examples above, here are some effective questions:
Artist to a gallery director: “if you’re not accepting submissions, what’s the best way for me to make my new work visible to you?”
To the curator: “can you give me a sense of what museums are looking for now?” or “what exhibitions are you working on?”
To the website designer, the best question might be: “what are some good days for me to get quick edits to you?”
Notice that all of these inquiries seek information, and suggest that you will be the one responsible for taking action. None is a complaint, but a genuine effort to understand how the other person’s process works. In this way you open up the possibility of having an authentic conversation. By asking better questions you get better results.
Mary Edwards, Ph.D
Career & Life Coach for Artists
“Left Brain Skills for Right Brained People”
As an artist coach, I bring a unique combination of business knowledge, art world experience, and professional coaching skill to my practice.