Seeing in a New Way

Bill Abbate

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Imagine finding a simple idea that can help you see your life and yourself in a new way. Other than some professionals, few people are familiar with the simple technique we are about to discuss. You will find few ideas as powerful as viewing yourself from the balcony. From this balcony, you will discover things that can help you build a better life.

On Stage

Let's enter a playhouse with a large stage and ample seating, including a balcony. Imagine going to the balcony and finding a nice, comfortable seat. You are about to watch a play. In this play, you will see yourself in the leading role in one of many acts in your life.

Going into the balcony will help you get out of the proverbial "can't see the forest for the trees" view of life. Instead of seeing only a few trees in front of you, you will back up far enough to see more of the forest, yourself, and your life.

Let's watch two scenes to help you learn how to apply the balcony technique – one at work and one at home.

"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players." William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

At Work

Think of a recent memorable meeting you had with some colleagues.

Act One, Scene One:

You walk into a theater and notice people on stage. You make your way up to the balcony and find a comfortable seat. Looking down on the stage, you have a great view of the actors and hear every word they speak. The scene is of you and your colleagues in a meeting. Pay attention and notice as much detail as you can, as long as possible.

See and hear yourself in the meeting. When you are ready, pause and ask yourself:

  • What do I notice about myself?
  • What am I saying (or not saying)?
  • How am I behaving?
  • What expressions do I exhibit?
  • What are my posture and body expressing in this scene? Am I laid back, calm, comfortable, uncomfortable, on edge, strung out?
  • What else do I notice?

While observing yourself, pay attention to your colleagues and ask:

  • What are they saying (or not saying)?
  • How are they behaving?
  • What expressions do I see on their faces?
  • What are their postures and bodies expressing in this scene? Are they laid back, calm, comfortable, uncomfortable, on edge, strung out?
  • What else do I notice?

Now that you understand what to look for, close your eyes. Immerse yourself in the meeting, replaying the scene in your mind. Let it come alive as detailed and vividly as possible.

Write down your takeaways from the balcony. Ask yourself questions that help you see the bigger picture. You may notice such things as:

· You were or were not as engaged as you thought.

  • You raised your voice or were abrupt at times.
  • You didn't say anything or were disengaged or disinterested.
  • A colleague was emotional or was oddly unemotional.
  • You or someone else tuned out of what was happening.
  • One colleague rambled on, and the meeting lost steam.
  • A colleague or two barely participated.
  • Another colleague continually checked her phone.

You can make numerous observations from the balcony. The next question is, "What do you want to do with this information?"

A few ways you can use your new insights include to:

  • Improve the meeting structure
  • Increase participation
  • Improve relationships
  • Evaluate employees
  • Self-regulate
  • Improve your emotional intelligence
  • Enhance your observational abilities
  • Become more engaged
  • Help others become more engaged
  • Develop new perspectives

The above is only a sample of the observations and opportunities resulting from being on the balcony. What others can you add?

Choose one item from the above list to discuss with your colleagues. There is no time like the present to begin working on it. Use this experience to enhance your abilities and create an improved way of working together.

At Home

Think of a memorable interaction you had recently with your spouse or someone with whom you are very close. In this next scene, we will use a discussion between you and your spouse.

Act Two, Scene One:

You walk into a theater and see two people on stage. Making your way up to the balcony, you find a comfortable seat. Looking down on the stage, you have a great view of the two actors and hear every word they speak. The actors are reenacting the discussion you and your spouse had about a recent family event. Pay attention to as much detail as you can for as long as possible.

As before, close your eyes. Immerse yourself in the discussion, replaying the scene in your mind. Let it come alive as detailed and vividly as possible.

When you are ready, pause and ask yourself:

  • What do I notice about myself?
  • What am I saying (or not saying)?
  • How am I behaving?
  • What expressions do I see on my face?

· What are my posture and body expressing in this scene? Am I laid back, calm, comfortable, uncomfortable, on edge, strung out?

· What else do I notice?

While observing yourself, notice your spouse and ask:

  • What is he/she saying (or not saying)?
  • How is he/she behaving?
  • What expressions do I see on his/her face?
  • What is his/her posture and body expressing in this scene? Is he/she laid back, calm, comfortable, uncomfortable, on edge, strung out?
  • What else do I notice?

Write down your takeaways from the balcony. Ask yourself questions that help you see the bigger picture. You may notice such things as:

  • You were or were not as engaged as you thought.
  • You raised your voice at times or didn't say a thing.
  • Your spouse was emotional or was oddly unemotional.
  • One of you tuned out of the conversation.
  • You were not as respectful as you could have been.
  • You left the discussion feeling great or feeling lousy

Now that you have several observations from the balcony, ask yourself, "What can I do now that I have this insight into our discussion?"

You may use it in many ways, such as to:

  • Learn to focus more on what your spouse is saying and is not saying by observing his/her voice, body language, and attention.
  • Build a stronger relationship.
  • Improve your emotional intelligence
  • Enhance your observational abilities
  • Increase your appreciation for her/him
  • Become more engaged in conversation
  • Develop new perspectives

The above is only a partial list of potential observations and opportunities resulting from being on the balcony. What others can you add?

With the new insights you have gained, choose one area to discuss with your spouse, then work on strengthening your relationship.

Final thoughts

"Everyday, I sit in my balcony and think about how I want to take my life forward." Gurmeet Choudhary (1984-present)

From the balcony, you can see your life differently. Using this more distant, third-person view, you will see things you would otherwise miss. Through it, you can learn to understand yourself and others better. You will see the forest instead of a few trees.

Many professional coaches and leaders use this technique or some variation of it. Going to the balcony always provides a more expansive view, enhanced clarity, and a better understanding of the big picture.

Use the balcony technique to enhance your leadership skills as often as needed. And don't forget it is invaluable in other areas of your life as well!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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