Dance Partnerships: Are You An Unintentional Backseat Driver?

“I’m just helping my partner improve!”

In an earlier entry, we’ve looked at partners playing the blame game. What about backseat driving?

In many partnerships, especially for ones where real life couples join social dance lessons for the first time, one partner is bound to be a faster learner than the other. Usually this happens when one of the partners is keen to learn a dance together. In a few cases, there is an imbalance as the experience of one partner is noticeably more.

One of the most common scenarios for married partners are times when one starts nit picking on their spouses, saying “no, you’re doing this wrong, you’re pushing that wrong!”

But I want him/her to start looking better in dancing!

For the naturally talented at picking up dance steps faster, we do not blame you for wanting your partner to learn at a faster pace to match yours. Yet at the same time, it is not our partners’ fault for learning at a slower pace.

Is it frustrating?

Yes it is. Not just for the quick learner, but also for the slower learner.

For the less experienced partner, the comments received become demotivating. All they hear is “wrong, wrong, wrong” and “you’re a terrible dancer”.

Good intentions aside, when we start picking on the nitty gritty of the slower partner’s dancing, it causes more of a backlash full of resent than a will to improve. In fact, when further provoked, dancing will be the last thing your partner will want to learn once the “you’re so terrible” comments start flying.

But what do I do in the mean time? I cannot just stand and do nothing!

While in a few cases there are slow learners who may ask questions on improving their act, your best way is not to offer advice if they haven’t asked.

Instead, here are several reasons why unsolicited help is unwelcome and a few proposed solutions to each issue:

1. Your “help” will only be seen as “nagging”.

Our role as a partner is to act as a supporting character, not as one who frequently criticizes. Your only course of action, even though you have that itch to make a comment, is to hold your tongue and remain silent without judgement.

2. We only accept help from the higher ranks.

When we pay teachers to teach us, we are paying for their expertise. Your teachers are also the best people to turn to for advice as they have more experience teaching different level beginners. For this reason, your partner will also be more likely to accept help from somebody who is in a position of authority.

3. We only see the flaws in our partners and not in ourselves.

As I have stressed in my entry about criticizing our partners’ dancing, we only see what’s in other people and never ourselves. Instead of frequently pointing out mistakes, be responsible for your own steps first. Because by shifting the focus back onto ourselves, we remove the blame from the partners.

4. Let your partner learn at their own pace.

Sometimes, we must remove ourselves from the equation and let our partners learn to dance by themselves. They may struggle when they forget, but like a toddler who is learning to walk, we must allow them to pick themselves up and to let them make their own mistakes. By allowing our partners to explore their own dancing in a set time during practice without our intervention, they can learn from their own mistakes and make corrections from there.

5. Let your partner dance with others.

When you and your partner are always dancing together, aside from your own reaction, you only learn how your own partner’s method of dancing. On occasions, let your partner dance the same steps with other people of all levels. Through this exposure of dancing with other people, you learn that there can be different methods of doing the same steps, which will allow an alternative peer style environment for your partner to grasp a hold of similarities and differences they can pick up on.

For more recommended reading on dealing with partnerships (while avoiding the backseat driving), below are some recommended links:

Are you guilty of being an unintentional backseat driver? Let us know in the comments!

Image source: Majunznk

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