Porcupine huddle - cute, very cuddly

Relationships make the world go 'round

Relationships are integral to any human connection. They matter at every level within our lives. Virtually everything we do boils down to interacting with people: whether you’re a surgeon or a mother, relationships matter.

In health care, it’s easy for the importance of relationship to be overlooked. People will say ‘sure I’d like him to have a good bedside manner, but what’s really important is his surgical skill’. While surgical skill is undoubtedly key for any surgeon, relationships still make a difference. For example, the relationship between you and your health care provider determines what information gets shared. The relationship between a specialist and the rest of the surgical team may make a life-or-death difference in how well they work together in an emergency.

Relationships will never be perfect, but it’s the ongoing open communication and trust that allow collaborations and connection to thrive even amidst challenges.

The Fable of Porcupines (paraphrased below) was originally written in 1851 by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. It is a great parable about how being close and forming relationships with others in our community can be challenging - but it beats the alternative.

It was the coldest winter ever. Many animals died because of the cold. The porcupines, realising the situation, decided to group together to keep warm. This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions. After a while, they decided to distance themselves one from the other and they began to die, alone and frozen. So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth.

Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. They learned to live with the little wounds caused by the close relationship with their companions in order to receive the warmth that came from the others. This way they were able to survive.

You can see from this story that sometimes we need to make compromises to make relationships work - and if we are unwilling to do that, no one wins.

Over to you

How did you feel reading The Fable of Porcupines? What thoughts or feelings did it bring to the surface for you?

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This article is from the free online course:

Maternity Care: Building Relationships Really Does Save Lives

Griffith University