I was fairly young when I first heard the idiom ‘you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’. It was one of my mother’s pearls of wisdom. Her name was Pearle and so, she took her name seriously by dispensing precious lessons on life with short homilies and expressions.
I recall this particular one was said to me when I wanted something from my cousin and after a few attempts at asking nicely, I gave up and became more demanding. I can still hear my mother making this statement and me discovering, this time and others, that using a sweet approach rather than a sour one works most of the time.
Recently I looked up the meaning of the metaphor – ‘you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’ – and not surprisingly the description is as follows: “Flies represent anything you want to achieve. Honey (sweet) represents anything pleasant that you do to get what you want. Vinegar (sour) represents anything unpleasant that you do to get what you want. It tells you to use nice methods rather than unkind methods in dealing with other people.”
Though I have never been overly fond of the word ‘nice’, I understand the lesson made by differentiating the use of honey and vinegar in this idiom and the difference it makes to a conflict whether we are nice or not. This expression is pertinent to this week’s ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) blog, for which readers are asked to consider the queries below as they relate to a conflict in which you used honey and/or vinegar:
In what way(s) did you use honey in that conflict? (What was ‘nice’ about this approach?)
What happened as a consequence of using honey?
In what way(s) did you use vinegar? (How was that approach ‘unkind’?)
What happened as a consequence of using vinegar?
How would you describe the specific flies you caught with the honey you used?
What specific flies did you ‘catch’ with the vinegar you used?
What flies didn’t you ‘catch’ with the honey or vinegar that you wanted to?
How would you describe the impact on the other person when you used honey? When you used vinegar?
When someone has used honey with you, how have you experienced that? When they used vinegar?
What lessons occur to you about the expression ‘you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar’?
Cinnie Noble is a lawyer, mediator and certified coach. She created the CINERGYmodel of conflict coaching in 1999 and coaches, consults and trains the CINERGY model in Canada, the U.S., Ireland, Australia and Europe. Cinnie is also the author of Conflict Management Coaching: The CINERGY Model.