Written by Sarah Yoon
The negative potentialities of collaboration lurk in the shadows—I’m sure some scenarios pop easily into your mind. That time when you researched and wrote nearly everything for the group assignment, or when your friends argued so much over casting that you disbanded your amateur theatre troupe. Last week I optimistically discussed the key benefits of collaboration; however, I don’t want you to be caught unawares by potential cons.
Community and Friendship: Pushing the big, red button
The better you know a person, the more evident their flaws become—especially when you collaborate artistically. Little habits that irk you, ways of speaking, acting, or even creating art, grow into monsters as you watch. Instead of bottling up irritation and ‘sticking it out,’ which can lead to passive aggressive behavior, talk about it. Kindly, of course. Maybe Ricky will avoid jingling his keys in his pocket and Ethel will avoid smacking on those chocolates (I Love Lucy anyone? …anyone?) or you can learn to ignore it over time. Know that you have annoying habits of your own, and communicate where the buttons are and which not to push.
When multiple voices chime into a democratic decision process, you must sift through each suggestion without hurting others. It’s a problem that I often met with in middle school; a group of friends would decide to put on a play, and inevitably a kid would run off crying because she didn’t get the part that she wanted. Though you’d think that adults would show greater wisdom and restraint, they don’t. Feelings get hurt, people cast blame, and malicious rumors begin. It’s a tricky playing field, so set ground rules early on: all ideas will be considered but only the ones that most benefit the project will be accepted, no matter who they’re from. Especially for teams without a specific project director, members must focus on benefitting the team instead of feeding egos. To set your team up for success, draw ground rules and don’t take rejection personally.
Skill Melding and Personal Growth: Mooching through life
When you borrow skills and hope to learn from another’s expertise, keep in mind the balance of give and take. If you need help with your website and ask your designer friend to help out, it only makes sense either to pay with money or time. Never bat your eyelashes and mooch. Good friends should help each other out, but if the work turns into a regular request, don’t be afraid to clarify the situation. Approach projects in a business-like fashion and make sure that you’re on the same page; all expectations must be spoken and accounted for. Is any money expected in the transaction? Any work done in return? Who will be credited for the project? Who owns the project? Money and ownership may not be the first cause for a dispute, but they may easily be the last. As the relationship becomes more involved, remember to write contracts.
Friendly competition is a great motivator, but keep an eye out for that nasty monster named Jealousy. Say your friend sells renowned works and settles into her industry, free to create whatever art she wants. When you meet for your monthly lunch, instead of wishing her well, you see her as a rival. Sound dramatic? Take a deep breath and remind yourself that it’s okay—even when others achieve success. Reconsider your definition of success and remember that relationships are much healthier and more satisfying when you don’t begrudge another person’s happiness. Continue supporting her. In a healthy friendship, she’ll turn around and help you out too. And if you’re lucky enough to be the successful one, you’re not off the hook either. No being aloof for you. Keep your feet on the ground, remember the people who helped you to the top.
Over all, the key to avoiding conflict is to communicate clearly and address problems before they cause trouble. For more, see Karyn’s article on “How to Network Relationally – or, How to make Connections and Not be a Stalker.” She gives great, practical tips on starting healthy professional relationships.
An incredibly grateful thank-you to the artists who have been kind enough to collaborate with us:
“Tea Break” by Sayuri Romei: Sayurimvromei.deviantart.com/ , Sayuri.firstname.lastname@example.org
“#43 War and Peace” by Gabriel Picolo: http://365-daysofdoodles.deviantart.com