Now it’s no surprise that people have different needs. I certainly know what works for me, what feeds me, what makes me smile, just doesn’t have that same result in everyone. And vice versa, of course.

The first time I heard the phrase “less is more” I was a Freshman in college studying theater. Our stagecrafts professor decided that the set for R.U.R., a futuristic play by Karel Capek, was going to be a geodesic dome – or at least a geodesic half dome. Buckminster Fuller conceived of the geodesic dome as an efficient, inexpensive architectural solution, based on his ideas of “doing more with less”. And our professor’s minimalist idea for a set design turned out to be magnificent. Less really was more here.

In contrast, when we did Street Scene by Elmer Rice, we did a FABulous job (if I may say so myself) recreating part of a New York City neighborhood street, going to great length to add gritty urban detail.

I remember working well into the night (followed by a fun trip to Hung Fat’s in Chinatown) just to add layer upon layer of texture to the building facades. We used paint with sawdust in it to create the look our director wanted. Not quite a brownstone technically, but the look was stunning. Here more was more.

But even in our less theatrical daily interactions, we come up against whether less is actually more. Often it is. But sometimes…it just isn’t.

Sometimes in a marriage/partnership, for instance, one person comes home after a long day and wants nothing but some peace and quite – the more simplicity the better. Whereas the other person might be dying for conversation, wanting to explore topics and thoughts to a level that makes the other person’s eyes roll and head spin. “More” to one feels overwhelming, but to the other, “less” feels like starvation.

Even at the workplace where the need for simple, elegant solutions often begs for the “less is more” philosophy, people have different requirements for how much they need to explore or discuss something before they can get to the simple solution. Sometimes for a while, “lots more” is needed to arrive at simplicity. And for a person who doesn’t enjoy all the detail and heavy analysis, this can feel like torture. But there may be no other way to get to the simple without, at least for a while, embracing the complex. What a conundrum!

We humans are so different. There’s just no one-size-fits-all answer – or in this case, no one approach fits all. All we can do is try to be aware that, while we are desperately trying to shape things to match our needs (whichever end of the spectrum we inhabit), the other person might be experiencing a strongly contrasting feeling. The challenge is how to take care of our own needs while being open enough to respect and accommodate those of the other person.

And to add confusion, what works for one moment, may not be right for each moment. Sometimes trying to get past these differences to get to a place where less can be more, actually requires more effort – at least for a while.

So, while I am a minimalist at heart, even for me in communication and relationships sometimes less is less and more is actually more. Ideally, the goal is to reach a new place of balance together where maybe just a few words tells a whole story. Ah…what a marvelous thing that can be! But, of course, that’s for each person to try to work out in his or her own life.

Tempting as it might be, there are just no absolutes here that apply to every situation. Hmmm…ironically, negating the existence of absolutes seems to create an absolute. But, for now, I think I’ll simply let that one go!