Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Make it personal

It had been a long season at the Summer Palace of Joseph Haydn’s employer, Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy. Haydn and his fellow musicians had been away from their wives and families for a long time and they all felt that it was time to go home.

But how could they get the message across diplomatically to their powerful patron?

Haydn decided to add some symbolic theatricality to the symphony he was working on. He composed a quiet section for the finale that required its players to finish their parts at different times. One after the other, once their parts in the symphony were finished, the relevant players snuffed out the candles on their music stands, quietly left their seats, and then disappeared into the shadows of the surrounding palace. This continued until only two violin players were left, Joseph Haydn himself and the Concert Master Alois Luigi Tomasini.

This musical theatricality distilled the general feelings of weariness experienced by all the Prince’s musicians into a more specific awareness of the problems experienced by two of the most gifted and valuable amongst them. It focused the Prince’s attention upon Joseph’s and Alois’s weariness and the difficulty they were experiencing in encouraging the musicians to ‘play their parts’. (It is interesting to note that the day after the 1st performance of this ‘Farewell Symphony’ the palace was closed-up for the winter and all the musicians left for their homes.)

We can gain an enhanced appreciation of issues, problems and their key consequences by exploring the impact they may have on specific valued individuals. The next time you are faced with a challenging issue or problem try to narrow the focus from the general to the personally specific. What effects, for example, would a problem have on the day to day lives of your family, close friends or valued colleagues? What would be the consequences of these effects for any others involved, including yourself? How would you feel about these possible effects and consequences?

The above approach can also be used for testing out solutions. How would proposed solutions affect your family, close friends or valued colleagues? How would these people respond to the solutions? Would you be happy with the results? If not, what other solutions would work better?

Focusing on valued individuals and exploring how problems and proposed solutions could affect them can bring crucial, personally hard-hitting issues to the fore.

So, the next time you are faced with a difficult issue, make it personal!

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