November 13, 2012

7 tips for future collaborators

If you're reading this, it's most likely because: a) you read this blog regularly, and/or b) we're teaming up to create something together--a video, a blog post, a play, whatever.

At this point, I probably already have a good feeling about you. Trust me, that's a big step. You've already proven that you're not an asshole, a flake, or full of shit. Treat yourself if you got this far.

Now that we've cleared the deal-breakers, let's talk more about the sort of working relationship I want to have with you. With that in mind, let me give you a few tips on how to work well with me.

1. Good fences make good neighbors.

I'm very particular about boundaries--my own and someone else's. I hate feeling forced or coerced into doing something I don't want to do, and I certainly don't want to make other people feel forced or coerced into something. That's one reason why I'm not too good at sales. I take, "No, thank you" at face value. It's not a challenge to my skills of persuasion. It's a clue to back off.

2. Getting what you want is as simple as asking, but once you make demands, forget it.

"Could you do me a favor?" is the best way to ask me to do something. If it's something that doesn't make me deeply uncomfortable or spreads me too thin, I'll more than likely do it. If it really helps you, I'll even go way out of my way. But as soon as you start barking orders at me, I'll suddenly have a lot that I need to do before I can get to whatever it is you're asking me to do.

3. Spare me your feelings.

This probably sounds cold and harsh, but I've found that it's necessary for my peace of mind. Whatever we're working on is hard enough without having to navigate moods and emotions along with it. That doesn't mean that I'm going to make like the Gregory House and ignore or stomp on your feelings every chance I get. It does mean that the words "I feel" are not going to be a primary factor in how I make decisions when it comes to the work I do.

4. Don't borrow trouble.

Chances are we have enough to do that worrying about things we have no control over is a waste of time and energy. Feel free to work yourself into a frenzy, bite your nails, and pull your hair out way out of sight and out of hearing from me.

5. Focus on essentials.

I tend to mentally prioritize every decision I make into 3 categories: need to do, want to do, and would be nice to get around to doing. Aside from the way my mind naturally works, being broke has solidified the difference between need, want, and nice to have. Differentiating between these and putting the bulk of our time and energy into essentials works better than just doing whatever comes up just because it's there to be done.

6. Be easy to reach.

If I call, pick up your phone, even if to tell me, "I'm sorry. I can't talk right now. Call me back at [time]." If I e-mail you, let me know you got it even if to say, "I'll get back to you on [date and time]." I don't expect anyone to be available 24/7, and I'd hate it if people expected that of me. That said, at least give me an idea of when I can consistently reach you if we need to communicate.

7. Don't do me no favors.

I don't believe in committing to projects or relationships out of obligation. If you're going to work with me, do it because there's something in it for you that makes it worth the time and energy you'll put into it. Chances are it won't be the money or the fame. Whatever it is, make sure it's for you. Don't do it for me. Because the moment you say, "I'm doing this for nothing/so little/not enough!" I'm through with you. People who are dishonest or unclear about their motives are people I can't deal with. I want no working relationship that is revealed to be based false pretenses--or worse, a lie.

Of course, this is not the end-all, be-all of working with me. But it's a lot like what someone said about voting for Obama versus voting for Romney. Obama's not perfect, but you can have a conversation with him. The same principle applies here. Doing these things won't guarantee a perfectly smooth working relationship, but it will be something I can work with.

And that's all I'm really asking for.

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