Inspiring Compassionate Communication
In Healthcare
April 2021
Balcony People
A few weeks ago, I was introduced to a concept I’ve been mulling over ever since. Here’s the deal:

You’re walking down a street.
You are, symbolically, street level.

The others in your life are either basement people or balcony people. That is, they are the people that drag you down to their level in the basement, or they cheer you on from the balconies.

At the extremes, balcony people throw you long stemmed roses, rain down confetti and ticker tape and celebrate everything about you. Basement people remind me of harpies; mythical monsters that live in the sewers, peering out from a drain, ready to grab anything in reach to drag back into their lair.

The thought experiment was to identify who are the balcony people and who are the basement people in your life. I.E., who are the ones who elevate you versus the ones who don’t?

The next step was simply to ponder where we’re putting our time and energy investments. Do we spend more time with people who bring us up or with those who drag us down?

An almost natural inclination is to hear only those voices from the sewer. Er, basement. Those voices, even a single negative voice, can drown out a choir of praise.   

Even one loud mouthed stranger who knows nothing can overpower the voices of friends and family who lovingly support and encourage us.

Far too often, we respond so deeply to a single snarky jab while ignoring multiple kind words from others. We’ve probably all spent time worrying about the opinions of people we don’t even like, always seeking their approval. Basically, trying to turn a basement person, into a balcony person.

I’m gonna repeat that…we spend too much time trying to change basement people into balcony people.

Know what we should be doing? 
Turning toward the balcony people.
Listening to them.
Spending time how they spend time.
Making investments in people like they do.
Using their example to better ourselves.

And, of course, all these thoughts cause me to hold up a mirror to my own life.

Who am I in others lives? I’d like to think I’m a balcony person. I’d like to think I’m always supportive and loving and celebrate the wins of those around me. It’s cool to think of myself as the person showering roses and popping champagne and applauding as loud as I can.  

But, those closest to me will tell ya I can be blunt. I can be critical. I can hold long grudges. Not exactly what you think of with a balcony person. Thankfully – this is not the total of me.

The truth is, human beings are complicated. We have personalities that make us hard to sum up. Like, I can literally be confiding in The Hotness when I’m afraid or upset. I can completely be a basement person in the moment. But then, in the midst of that conversation, a phone call comes in from a friend or family member in crisis? I can switch to the supportive balcony person in a heartbeat. 

We are humans. We are fluid. We change. We develop. We learn. We grow. We are not static. We never will be… and that’s good. It’s part of being human. And the more time we spend with balcony people, and listen to them, learning from them, watching them and believing them, the more we help create a compassionate, supportive existence for all.
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