Can You Handle Your Opposite?

"To know one thing, you must know the opposite" - Henry Moore
Not only do opposites attract but they make each other brighter!

I love having friends over in the summer for a drink by my garden pond. It’s so relaxing and I enjoy sharing the colors and textures in my yard.  The question usually surfaces pretty quickly as to whether or not my husband and I garden together. That’s an easy question – NO! Don’t get me wrong, he helps a lot when I need it. He has built me some incredible arbors and he built our peaceful multi-stream waterfall that is the centerpiece of our yard. To be honest, I’m glad that he isn’t a crazy gardener like me – our tastes are opposite and well, I don’t think that our ideas would mesh.  I’m a bit of a control freak and he isn’t. It’s great for a marriage! 

There’s a house a few miles from us that is absolutely stunning with puffs of color everywhere. It’s a beautiful kaleidoscope of flowers standing to attention arranged as if a painter staged a set. I regularly see an older couple outside tending to the garden in harmony. They both wander about doing their own thing and seem so peaceful and diligent in trimming and watering. I always think of how the scene would be at our house if my husband and I gardened together. My vision involves me chasing him with a hose or shovel for moving something or clipping a bush that I don’t want touched. Good thing he doesn’t like to garden….. 

Numerous people share hobbies and it really strengthens their relationship. On the flip side, not all couples enjoy the same things. At the very least, we all need to try something once to see what will bring us together. I quickly learned that I don’t share my husband’s passion for jet skiing and snow skiing. Instead, we play off of each other and follow our own hobbies, yet share our love of other mutual social activities. Our opposite interests work well together and keep us happy while our marriage grows. We need to respect each other and understand what drives us. Likewise, we need to understand what drives us nuts about each other. Like a plant in the garden playing off one another, one person’s strength is another’s weakness and we can learn so much from each other.  

“If everybody is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going exactly in the opposite direction” – Sam Walton

There’s no doubt that I am an extrovert - no to the extent that my husband is – but an extrovert through and through. I admit that it has taken years for me to understand and have patience with introverts.  A few years ago I worked with another manager who was a thinker and very much an introvert. It was unnerving. I clearly remember a lunch meeting when we were tossing ideas around and she just stared at me. Thinking. And thinking. Thinking. I thought that I would lose it. I did what all extroverts do – I began chatting away to fill the silence and I’m sure that she wanted to tape my mouth shut because she still wanted to think.  That day haunts me and it was at that point I committed to trying to understand and accept introverts. 

Personal and business relationships are so important. Not enough of us take a step back to try and understand one another. Most of us are fast paced and steam ahead without considering how our style may turn off (or scare!) a partner or colleague. My commitment to building relationships with the “aliens” (introverts) led me to the new book by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PHD  The Genius of Opposites – How introverts and extroverts achieve extraordinary results together.  

In her book, Jennifer not only shares her own clashes with introvert and extrovert relationships, she outlines a 5 step process to help us in our own lives. She shares a 5 step process with an ABCDE approach which really leads the reader through an eye opening experience. She offers great chapter summaries and stories. After reading this book you will walk away agreeing that “Opposites are most successful when they stop focusing on the differences and use approaches that move them towards results”.

Here are the ABCDE’s that will help you move towards results with those that your work with: 

·         Accept the alien: You can’t change people but you can try to understand them better. Focus more on how you can partner than on how your opposite drives you nuts.

·         Bring on the battles:  Start seeing disagreements as a necessity and as a positive to find effective solutions. Challenge your opposite in a healthy way and watch the growth and collaboration.

·         Cast the character: Quickly ascertain each other’s role and “cast” him or her to work on bringing out the best in that person’s role. If you understand your characters you can help orchestrate success.

·         Destroy the dislike: Above all else, respect each other and don’t let the opposite style annoy you or cause issues. Act like friends on the outset and you will be.  Accept that we are all different stop fighting it.

·         Each can’t offer everything: You can’t personally offer everything and we all offer something. Accept and embrace diversity. Look at differences as a positive and play off each other’s strengths. Don’t fight it and become respectful partners.

As you read this book I encourage you to take the time to really think about someone who your opposite is and how you can partner with them for results. Try to understand them and learn what each of you can bring to the table.  Answer the questions at the end of each chapter to influence your relationships to bring about effective solutions, new ideas, and really bring out the best in others.

As you share hobbies or daringly garden with your partner, be open and accepting. You just never know what you can grow together!



Does Color Really Matter?

"The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts" - Marcus Aurelius

Time to diversify and design a red and orange garden?

 To me, a garden is an artist's palette. It changes over time and the scene jumps out as the artist lightly  brushes on color and texture. Gardens are a reflection of the "artist" and no two are ever alike. Gardens are meant to be free flowing and unique. Gardening isn't just about color. It's also about texture, bark, pottery, garden art, or even fences. Gardening welcomes all colors, sizes, textures, and plant temperaments. For me? The more diverse that a garden is, the better. I love diversity and it's amazing what each plant brings to the mix.

I tend to be more of a carefree and adventurous gardener with color and texture. I don't take a whole lot of time to plan out colors or even placement in my gardens. In the end, I'm rewarded with a plethora of colors that compliment each other. What's important to me is that I enjoy the beauty that I've created and if others love it? It's an added bonus. I have stepped out of the norm and have designed some monochrome gardens. I have a black garden and an all white garden that face each other as if in battle. I also have a bright cheery yellow garden that pops in the sunlight. It's fun and finding the right colored plants sent me on a greenhouse scavenger hunt.

If you want some semblance of order with color in your garden then a color wheel is your #1 tool. As you can see below, a color wheel shows how colors are related (or not) and can be a useful guide in helping you to mix up your colors. For more insight check out Proven Winners.

Photo courtesy of Sean Hillmeyer via Compfight

Here's some tips for using a color wheel:

  • Analogous colors are next to each other and look good together (red & orange, orange & yellow, yellow & green ).
  • Complementary colors are those opposite of each other on the wheel (red & green, violet & yellow).
  • A triad of colors is formed by drawing an equilateral triangle connecting 3 colors on the wheel (red, yellow, & blue).
  • Monochromatic is using 1 color in several shades. A shady hosta garden or my yellow garden are great examples.
  • Dark/deep colors such as blue, purple, dark pink can create calm when used together. They also make spaces appear larger.
  • Bright colors bring attention to areas, but may make a garden seem smaller. Bright colors are great near doors, decks, and windows. Think red, orange, fuchsia.
  • Neutral colors such as white, gray, black, silver, brown, and green tone down other colors or can be a divider between sweeps of color. 

Most garden designers swear by using a color wheel to pair plants and build new gardens. It doesn't end there. They also make use of textures and other hardscaping (rocks, arbors) features. Gardens need to well rounded with a lot of diverse color and features. Diversity builds character and it's fun to see all the elements play together.

"All the diversity, all the charm, and all the beauty of life are made up of light and shade" - Leo Tolstoy

How are you  doing with building diversity outside your garden? We can all make a difference in the world by building diversity in all areas of our lives.

Life is like a garden. My garden has more shapes, colors, sizes, smells, and textures than I can even count. They all compliment one another and they form a cohesive portrait. A single flower can't make a garden, but a group becomes a  spectacular show. Wouldn't it be great if our world were like this? Our differences are what make us unique and we should embrace all the "smells, colors, shapes" in people like we do in a garden. We all bring something to the whole.

 When I was young, I wanted to change the world. It took growing up and life experience to learn that one person can only be a catalyst, not change everything. We can  make an impact by our actions and hope that we too can be the one flower that unites a garden.

How you can help grow diversity
  • Examine your real feelings regarding diversity. Be honest and ask yourself "why" if you have reservations.
  • Speak out against racism and inequality. Don't let it slide. You can be subtle in your efforts, but if you ignore it you are accepting it. Don't be that person. 
  • If you feel that you can't speak out against some issues regarding diversity, confide in someone else. Let them be a catalyst.
  • Be open and learn about the cultures of those that you work with. Ignorance can breed an indifference to diversity.
  • Reach beyond your circle of friends and work group. Get to know those that are "different" and make some new connections. Accept differences.
  • Avoid hanging with cliques or one group.
  • Watch your words and jokes. So many of us forget the power of words - positive and negative.
  • If you are in a leadership role, encourage diversity and hire diversity. 
  • Request to work with diverse teams.
  • Encourage and attend diversity training. Some communities have some great resources if your company does not have a program.
  • Encourage speakers on diversity or attend a community talk.
  • Volunteer within a variety of communities.
  • Allow or join groups within your company. Many employers encourage groups on site where like members (and you!) can meet monthly, weekly etc.
  • Encourage people to post events from their community to encourage anyone to visit their event or group.
  • DO SOMETHING. Don't wait for someone else to start change. Be a leader.

I love gardening because I gain so much satisfaction from watching my plants grow and blend in with their neighbors to form a magical world. How are YOU going to add diversity to the garden of life???