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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Monday Morning Check In: Are you a Balcony or Basement Person?

Recently a new acquaintance of mine went to a coaching session with a teacher that she had been working with for some time. At the last session, and this will be the last session my acquaintance assures me, the teacher said really negative things, such as that my new friend will fail.

I do not know where I first read about this, but I have carried the idea with me for many long years, that there are two basic types of people when it comes to relationships with others: Balcony and Basement people. I think it is important to understand what both types of people are and to recognize which type of person you meet. I will let you decide whether you want to stay in the company of one or the other; your choice may bear some additional reflection if you are not making the obvious choice.

Balcony people are those folks in our lives who wave handkerchiefs and pendants from the balcony. They cheer us as we pass by in the parade of life, shouting "hurrah" and "well done!" and other warm and fuzzy words of encouragement to spur us on to achieve even greater milestones in our lives and professions. Balcony people serve one purpose -- one mission in our lives, if you will -- and that is to applaud our efforts. Even if these people are also our teachers, they serve to encourage rather than discourage.

Courage. I would like to digress for a moment to talk about the difference between those two words. "Encourage" and "discourage" both have the same word root "courage." Courage is defined by Google as "the ability to do something that frightens one." Dictionary.com defines it as "the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear." This is admirable, yes? So how does the addition of two or three additional letters to the front of this word root change the meaning?

Encourage. The word preface "en" when added to "courage" changes the word to mean "give support, confidence, or hope" or to "give support and advice to (someone) to do or continue something." (Google) "Encourage" is defined by Thefreedictionary.com as "to inspire with hope, courage, or confidence; hearten."

Discourage. The preface "dis" when added to "courage" means to subtract the word root. Google defines discourage as causing someone "to lose confidence or enthusiasm." My favorite part of Google's definition is to "prevent or seek to prevent (something) by showing disapproval or creating difficulties."

So while encourage means to add courage, the word discourage means to take it away. These are the two types of people we generally encounter on our life's journey, yes? Those who want to build a relationship and connection with us and those who work to build distance between us. Those who embolden and those who deter. And I can tell you which of the two I would prefer to hang around with.

I do not even have to figure out why someone is one type or the other. This may be an interesting exercise in psychology, but to me it has no relevance or usefulness. I do not care why someone is one type or the other, although I might generate more pity for one or the other if I understood the causes or reasons.

Basement people pull people into the dungeons with them. They pull at your ankles and use every psychic trick they can get away with to drag you down into the basement of your mind. They do not wave flags or streamers. Instead they throw rotten fruit, or mark your papers with a heavy red pencil, or make subtle and oh-so-seemingly-innocent remarks that cause you to question your resolve and your purpose.

I heard a story once about a student who got an opportunity to take a lesson with a well respected musician and performer. This student was so excited, that he worked very hard to produce the best possible lesson material that the student could. When the student finished playing for the famous man, the teacher proceeded to tear the student's presentation to shreds with harsh comments and arrogant remarks. The student made a note of everything that this teacher had to say and then asked sweetly in return, "Is there anything else you can teach me today?"

Well, if I had been that teacher, I would have been embarrassed enough to sink to the floor. And I say "bravo!" to that student for having the wherewithal to ask that question, although I suspect this particular teacher was too far "over the edge" for the question to even register.

The next step for a student or person who is faced with a vision killer [for more about vision killers, read the article here] is to exercise the internal locus of control, another future post topic. For now, here are some words to describe Balcony and Basement people. Your assignment this week is to decide which type of person you are and which type of person you would like to be. Then work to adopt more of the qualities of the person you would like to be. At the same time, review the list of people that you spend time with and decide which type of person they are. Is there a way to spend more time with the Balcony people and less with the Basement people?

Here are some examples of the types of words and emotions that Balcony and Basement people favor:

Balcony People
Basement People
You can do it
You will never do this
Let me tell you how I know you will do this
Let me tell you why I know you will fail

So which person are you? Which person do you want to be? What types of people do you spend the most time with? Do you need to make changes?

Have a great week! You cannot see me, but I am standing on my balcony and waving my right arm รก la Montel Williams and shouting "whoop! whoop! whoop! Carry on!"


  1. I like your style, comparing two things just to look both the negative and positive of life. And I'm agree with that... these two kinds of people did exist in our days. "Hurrah" and "well done!" for this thoughts.

    1. Thanks, Becca! I think the positive-negative approach is something I learned in law school. The best way to really understand all sides of an issue is to look at what something is and what something isn't, or in many cases, the positive and the negative. I must say that this approach really does give one a very thorough picture about something. Thanks again for your lovely comment!