A “Fruitful” Analogy

I have found analogies to be incredibly helpful in deepening our understanding of situations we face in life.  One of the most powerful and fruitful analogies pertains to our social life, and that is what I want to share with you in this post.  It represents a way to think about the important relationships in our lives and how we nurture these connections.  The analogy is to think of our social landscape and relationships as a garden.  Each relationship is represented as an individual plant.

To understand and utilize this analogy, you need not be an expert on the subject; you needn’t have a green thumb for this to be useful for you.  Even as a complete gardening novice, we can grasp the idea that plants in a garden require attention and care in order to nurture a healthy and thriving plant.  The same applies to our relationships with others.  As we nurture our connections with the people in our lives, these connections become deeper and more robust.  If we neglect a plant, especially before it reaches full maturity and becomes hardy, it will likely wilt and eventually perish.  Again, this concept plays out with our friendships. 

We all are likely to have some number of long-lasting friendships that can withstand prolonged periods of no contact.  But as soon as we reconnect, it’s as if no time has passed, and we pick up right where we left off.  These are truly the treasures and centerpieces of our social garden.  While we may be giving more consistent attention to other relationships in our lives (such as our co-workers with whom we regularly interact), the deeply rooted relationships tend to be far more central to our identity.

And that is where this analogy really starts to deepen our understanding of our social lives.  Ideally, our garden will feature an array of different types of plants.  Some will be of the variety that we give attention to everyday, even though they may be relatively shallow.  This typically applies to our colleagues and acquaintances with whom we interact with every day and may or may not be friendly with outside the work confines.  Others will be the types of plants that we give periodic attention to that have deeper roots.  These tend to be medium to long time friends or family members.

Perhaps a somewhat uncomfortable truth that also underpins this analogy is the idea that all living things die.  So, too, might our friendships.  Sometimes the actual death of the person is the cause of the death of the relationship; other times it can be a falling out, a move, or just a loss of contact with the person.  We can picture the life cycle of a plant: from seed to sprout to blooming plant to mature plant to dead plant.  So, too, with our friendships (though it may be uncomfortable to acknowledge this fact). 

But this knowledge allows us to be prepared.  Both for myself and for several people with whom I have worked, an unexpected ending of a friendship can be such a painful experience.  The damage done is compounded for those who don’t have many other plants in the garden.  Ideally, we will have several plants at different stages in the life cycle.  So, even if a robust and hearty plant in our garden dies and leaves a void, it can be filled more easily with a plant that is more developed than a seedling.  If the end of a relationship strikes at a time when we haven’t even begun planting the seeds of other connections, it can be a daunting task to consider rebuilding what has been lost.  We would be looking at years before we could recover and begin to fill this void.  This is not to say that relationships are easily replaceable or that the people in our lives are expendable, but making some effort to diversify our energies in a range of relationships is often an effort that will serve us well.

This is often made more challenging if we have personalities that are low in openness (those who value tradition and routine) or if we are introverted.  However, even if this personality profile is present for you, it would be a wise investment to challenge yourself to reach out to a larger array of people than may be customary for you.

The last thing that I wanted to draw from this analogy is the idea that sometimes there are weeds in our garden.  They drain resources like water and nutrients in the soil that could otherwise be used to nourish the desirable plants in the garden.  It would be wise for you to look through your social circle (including your social media) every so often and assess if there any such weeds in your garden.  Do any of your friendships or connections leave you feeling drained or negative after interacting with them?  While it may feel complicated or threatening to do so, we are often best served by finding ways to weed these types of people out of our lives.  We don’t owe it to anyone to continue to interact with them if they are not enriching our lives.  And, yes, this even applies to family members.  Sometimes the healthiest thing we can do is to draw boundaries with these types of people and learn to preserve our own well-being.  If this is something that you would struggle to do, this might be a good indication that talking to a therapist might be helpful.

I hope you have found my favorite analogy to be helpful, useful, and beneficial in the way that you think about and care for your garden. 

EDITED BY DR. JACQUELINE FULCHER @ https://paintedowlpsychology.com

Are You Talking to Me? Tackling Communication Issues (Part 3)

         In the first part of this series on communication, we explored how the words we use can create problems in clearly conveying the messages we intend.  The second part of the series covered how nonverbal and paraverbal factors interact with what we say to augment or change our messages.  This third (and concluding) installment will address the listening side of communication.  The first two parts focused on what we broadcast, but an equally important factor is how we are receiving messages from those with whom we interact.


         When people describe the conflicts they have with their partners (or anyone else for that matter), a common thread is that the conversation escalates.  It may start out as a slight disagreement but soon becomes a full scale, bridge burning, name calling free for all.  While there is much to be said about conflict resolution, that is a subject for another time.  I want to focus here on how we can use listening as a communication tool to attempt to avoid the sparks of conflict from turning into a full blown forest fire.

Continue reading

Are You Talking to Me? Tackling Communication Issues (Part 2)

    In the first part of this series, we explored three issues that interfere with effective verbal communication (see Part 1 for all of the details).  This second part of the series will address issues beyond verbal communication.  We will explore other ways that we communicate with our body and voice.

Other types of communication

         It is easy to grasp verbal communication.  We pay attention to what we are saying and, by default, we are working on our verbal communication.  The issues that we will explore here are a bit more nebulous and can be more difficult to comprehend (but if I do a good job, you will be able to understand it in short order).  Let’s break down these other types of communication into 3 broad categories: nonverbal factors, paraverbal factors, and interactional relationships.


Continue reading

Are You Talking to Me? Exploring Communication Issues (Part 1)

       Komunikacija je primarni način kako smo u interakciji sa drugima.”  Did you have a hard time understanding this?  Let me try again.  “Kommunikation ist die primäre Methode, wie wir mit anderen interagieren.“  Still struggling?  I’ll try to communicate more clearly this time: Communication is the primary method of how we interact with others.  (The first two statements were in Bosnian and German, respectively.)  When we are speaking different languages, it is clear why we are having a hard time understanding one another.  This article is not about how to translate languages, though.  It is about the misunderstandings and miscommunication that happen even when everyone is speaking the same language.

Continue reading