Four Things to Say to Potential Collaborators

A music colleague recently asked me what to say to collaborators so that they don't feel pressured to agree with her or join her project.  This resonated with me because I'm the type of person who gets things done and makes things happen, so I have to be careful that I don't push others into doing things they aren't really passionate about.  

Here are the things I say to potential collaborators to 

  • make sure they are a good fit
  • protect myself from doing the majority of the work
  • build a trusting environment


"Is this something you're interested in?"

This question opens the door for dialogue and helps to give you a sense as to their level of passion for the project.  Finding out their motivation is important.  Do you want someone who's interested in collaborating mainly for the money or do you want someone who will match your enthusiasm because of a more altruistic mission?  Dig deeper with follow-up questions such as "what interests you exactly?" or "what's the main reason you're interested?"  You can also ask them what their concerns are specifically.

"You can say no."

Simply giving someone permission to say no can take the pressure off.  You want to collaborate with someone who wants to be there, not someone who is agreeing to do something because they have trouble setting boundaries.  Especially if you already have a personal relationship with this person, they may feel like they're letting you down.  Remind them that they are saying no to the project, not the person.

"Take time to think about it."

When your idea is unusual or unique, it may take people off guard.  Realize that, even though this may be something they eventually really want to do, it may take some time for them to get in touch with that or they may need to make sure they have the resources to fully participate.

"If it's not a 'heck yeah,' it's a 'no.'"

This is how I measure potential collaborations for myself.  Sharing this with others sends them the message that if they don't share your passion, they aren't the right fit for right now.  You can keep the door open for future collaborations by letting them know that they can contact you if their situation changes.  Be genuine and authentic here.  You don't want someone to begrudgingly collaborate with you.  You want someone to be all in, to be part of a team that you can share wins and struggles with, and to be willing to put in the same amount of time, energy, and passion that you will.


We all should be doing the things that light our souls up, not feeling pressured to do things that don't align with our values or that aren't a good fit for where we are in our lives.  That's where the magic lives.  Those are the collaborations that draw in other people and lead to other projects that bring us joy.  Don't sell yourself or your potential collaborators short with anything less.

Dr. Nancy Williams is a music educator and leadership & life coach whose mission is to inspire awareness and empowerment so that others can be agents of positive change in the world.  Join her email list to get messages of inspiration and leadership sent to your inbox weekly and get the free gift "5 Steps to Overcoming Overwhelm."

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