Playing Second Fiddle Is Harder

The late American composer, conductor and pianist Leonard Bernstein once said that playing second fiddle is the most difficult instrument of all. “…to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem; and if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

Mastering the art of conversation requires both the willingness and the ability to play second fiddle.

Have you ever thought about how your conversations with others might go if you made those conversations not about you, but about the other person?

A conversation is not a competition and it is an exercise in cooperation. When someone seeks to focus attention mainly on him, it is inevitable that competition for the spotlight will soon follow. When you and all of the others taking part are willing and able to give cooperation, to share the spotlight, only then can a real conversation take place.

You play your role as a second fiddle by actively listening and engaging with the speaker while she holds the spotlight, and then taking your turn in the spotlight when it comes.

Your immediate reward is to come away from such a conversation with greater satisfaction. Longer term, your reward is much more significant. You will have stronger relationships because others will respect you, knowing that you will always listen to what they have to say and engage with them.


“A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue.

That’s why there are so few good conversations:

due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet.”

~ Truman Compote 

Your Personal Appraisal

  • How often do you turn conversation into a competitive sport?
  • Which way of showing others you are listening do you find easiest?
  • Do you ever feel awkward during conversations? Why?
  • Can you graciously allow other people their opinions or do you engage in nasty debate?

Life Is Honest, Open and True: True conversation does not come easily. Today, take time to ask meaningful questions to show you’re honestly listening to others. Be open to modeling the effective communications skills of others.

Thanks to my reader who wrote and suggested this story idea to me. If you have an idea you’d like me to address, please let me know by email or in the comment box below.

Related Posts: Conversations

Can We Talk?

How Do I Get to Know You?

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Start Talking


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