Kevin Pashuk en Directors and Executives, beBee in English, Bloggers Chief Information Officer - Appleby College/ beBee Brand Ambassador • Appleby College and beBee 14/11/2016 · 2 min de lectura · 4,3K

People are like Tea Bags

People are like Tea Bags

Phil Friedman has recently dubbed me a “Prairie-Culture philosopher” in his most recent post.

( )

I’ll accept that badge.

Both my parents are prairie people, and we didn’t waste words in our house.

If there was nothing to say, we didn’t.

I like short pithy sayings, full of wisdom.

If they have some wit in there, that’s a bonus.

Let me share a story with you.

Over thirty years ago I heard a speaker who happened to be from Tennessee. I’ve completely forgotten his name, but one phrase he used to make a point has stuck with me since.

Appropriately enough, in speaking about diligence and tenacity, he said “Stick to it like a hair in a biscuit!”

When the audience did that little head tilt thing, you know the kind when you say something to your dog and they have no clue what you just said? It was that kind of reaction.

He then told the story of where he got that phrase.

He was visiting a young lady’s house for dinner… to meet the parents.

This is not a particularly comfortable experience for any young man, so he was all shined up and on his best behaviour.

The table had been set nicely, since the girl’s mother knew her daughter liked this young man, and wanted it to be a great experience.

As was the custom, fresh warm biscuits were baked and were in a basket on the table.

During grace, when heads were bowed and eyes were supposedly closed, the young man cracked open an eye to make sure he wasn’t being sized up by the dad. Thankfully dad’s eyes were closed as he offered the prayer of thanks.

It was then he noticed a long strand of hair on the table beside his plate.

Being a considerate young man, he realized that his beau’s mother would be aghast that her perfectly set table contained an intruder.

Taking advantage of the moment, he decided to covertly remove the hair from the table… so he reached out as quietly as he could, grabbed the hair and began to slowly pull back his hand…

… at which point the biscuit in the basket, to which the hair was attached, came tumbling out of basket with a loud crash.

We as an audience understood perfectly what he meant by “Stuck to her like a hair in a biscuit”.

What this speaker had just done, is use one of the most powerful tools we can use in writing, speaking and communicating – the metaphor.

I’m a big fan of metaphors.

They are short, pithy bits of wisdom that make a point, which for people like me, are easy to remember.

Metaphors help other people remember what you say.

Sometime they are self-explanatory.

"Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."
Forrest Gump

People are like Tea Bags

Others are so bizarre, they make people stop and think.

"A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,"
- Irina Dunn, popularized by Gloria Steinem

People are like Tea Bags

Sometimes they are funny.

"I told my wife that a husband is like a fine wine; he gets better with age. The next day, she locked me in the cellar."
"Cleaning the house while your kids are still home is like shoveling while it's still snowing."

Others open the door to telling a story, like I described above.

What does happen, is that your audience remembers the point you were trying to make.

As a leader, or a writer, you say things that you hope people will remember.

Put the power of the metaphor into your arsenal of tools.

Back up the metaphors with a story.

Your team and your audience with thank you for it.

Now to close the loop on the title of this post.

“People are like tea bags”.

I first saw this on a fridge door about 35 years ago.

I still remember it.

It comes to mind regularly as I’m dealing with situations.

This shows the power of what I’ve just spent 671 words describing above.

It came to mind this week during the election south of the Canadian border.

Of course there was a second part to this quote.

The whole quote reads

“People are like tea bags. Their true flavor doesn’t come out until they are in hot water.”
Sign on a fridge door.

What’s your favourite metaphor?


Image: Used under Creative Commons License

About the Author:

People are like Tea BagsI’m the Chief Information Officer for Appleby College, in Oakville, Ontario Canada, where my team is transforming the delivery of education through innovative application of technology.

I'm convinced that IT leadership needs to dramatically change how IT is delivered rather than being relegated to a costly overhead department.

In addition to transforming IT in my role as CIO, I look for every opportunity to talk about this... writing, speaking and now blogging on BeBee ( , LinkedIn, ITWorld Canada, or at

I also shoot things... with my camera. Check out my photostream at 

Gerald Hecht 20/11/2016 · #75

#73 @Linda Scarrup honey bee colonies frequently need to a deal with a queen who say "every bee colony has a queen, ciao".. is umm would be cool if (like everything else in life) it really was that orderly

Gerald Hecht 20/11/2016 · #74

The quality of a rhetorical piece may be greatly improved by paying close attention to @Phil Friedman 's comments regarding the degree of "isomorphic slippage" in a metaphor; should the rhetorician choose to deploy that particular device...of course as Phil has shown me...a higher quality piece may result from omitting the metaphor entirely (for any number of reasons; isomorphic slippage, unnecessary use of the device to further a concept which is already doing the "Res Ipsa Loquitur thingie", etc.); the factors that separate high quality writing from lesser quality writing cannot, of course, be taught --if we think about it...we all must admit that we all have exemplars of rhetorical pieces which are our "gold standards" ..."benchmark writing samples"...which break every rule of "proper syntax", tense consistency subject/object/verb agreement....4 dot ellipses (naughty naughty); incorrectly structured parenthetical insertions, etc., and yet don't make a damn bit difference

+2 +2
Linda Skarrup 19/11/2016 · #73

#71 Great observation, Phil, one of the best analogies I've seen. I would like to add one thing: bee colonies have a Queen! Ciao!

+1 +1
David Navarro López 19/11/2016 · #72

I like metaphors too, I find them a good way to make the audience remember the message you want to transmit.
But in some cases, a tag of "handle with care" should be put into this powerful tool.
Some people abuse of the metaphors, and try to establish all kind of similarities between the metaphor and the message they want to transmit, in a way that the original message is no longer interesting.
In others, like in advertising, the metaphor is so powerful that the audience virtually forgets about the product, and only remembers the metaphor.
Porque yo lo valgo, (Could be translated as :because I deserved it) was a very successful advertising campaign of L'Oreal, on which a beautiful lady was choosing the brand as a matter of excellence. In my country, this sentence has become a part of the day to day speaking, but nobody know where does it come from.

+2 +2
Phil Friedman 16/11/2016 · #71

#58 The problem is that true metaphors are rare. We most often speak in similes --- which some grammarians consider a sub-class of metaphors. Personally, I identify metaphors as similar in structure and function to conceptual models. For example, water running in pipes (which can be directly observed) is often used as a conceptual model for electricity "running" in wires (which cannot be directly observed).

The downfall of relying too heavily on a metaphor is that metaphors are also rarely completely isomorphic with that which is the co-reference of the metaphor. For instance, bee society and its social structure can be used as a metaphor for the structure of social media. (Wow! That's a novel idea ain't it?) But while we may like to play around with bees buzzing about, making honey, cross-pollinating, and so on, we might not like some other aspects of the metaphor. Namely, the fact that a bee colony functions as a multi-part, but single biological entity, in which the individual being of its members is submerged in, and subordinated entirely to the will and the welfare of the collective. Very much like the Borg Collective in the Star Trek series.And very much the anathema of what free people value highly, namely, free and individual belief and exchange., Cheers!

+5 +5
Wayne Yoshida 16/11/2016 · #70

#53 Someone had to do it!

Praveen Raj Gullepalli 16/11/2016 · #69

#66 Okay you win four Oscars for that! ;)

+1 +1
Gerald Hecht 16/11/2016 · #68

#67 @Praveen Raj Gullepalli that's pretty mixed!