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Ask HN: How do you avoid co-founder fatigue?
6 points by marketinghead on Oct 20, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 8 comments
My co-founder and I are close friends. Startup is going better than it has in months. But lately, his faults are getting on my nerves.

Right now, I cope by "shutting it down" - just keep my mouth shut and stick to the work. Even though I'm not trying to be pro-actively mean, I think it comes across that way because normally I'm chatty and making jokes.

What are some things you guys do so that you can deal with your co-founder?

I think it depends on the faults you're talking about. If those faults in any way impact the business, then it's going to seriously affect how you view him as both a business partner and a friend.

In any case though, you're in a relationship with someone and communication is important. Your co-founder and you should be constantly providing each other feedback in order to be better partners. Be sensitive on how you word it when you bring it up, but if you stress that it's for the good of your friendship AND the business you've started, he should be able to take it in stride.

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I can be hypercritical and thought that maybe I just needed some time and space away. So that's kind of where I was going, but...

You bring up a perspective I need to consider. Some faults are simply part of his character and have come up in non-work related settings. Others have revealed themselves through work disagreements.

But you are right in that I should communicate what is impacting work. And try to do it in a way that won't sound like I'm just blasting him. He is a good guy after all.

You definitely need to get this out on the table. One thing, though, try using the word "difference" instead of "fault." So say something like "I've noticed some differences in how we work together and I feel like it's affecting my commitment to the business."

Make a list of the differences beforehand and go through them one by one with him. Make an agreement beforehand that if it gets emotional, you'll take a break on the current item and revisit it after you've each had a chance to process it.

Also, ask yourself if there's anything you can do to change how you perceive those faults.

For example, I used to get defensive about my code when my partner criticized it in a certain way. One day I realized that, if I just wait 5 seconds before responding and remind myself that my partner has the best intentions in mind, the emotion drains away.

As with most relationship issues, discuss it, but be nice about it. Turn what might be a confrontation into a discussion where your co-founder can voice similar concerns he/she might have about you. Usually when there is frustration it’s going both ways.

Thanks, jokull. I know that I am not easy to work with at times, and he probably has good feedback for me, too.

Without knowing more about your specific situation it's tough to give anything but a vague answer.

Partnership is harder than marriage. I think this is part of why HN places so much value on co-founders who get it.

You also learn if your friendships are true friendships where the person is as willing to look at themselves as much as point fingers.

Ultimately you have to get and stay on the same page. Knowing how to disagree, and know who's driving the bus ultimately has to be in place.

Thanks for taking the time to reply, j45. The points you bring up are quite astute despite my being vague on details.

Wrt "the person is as willing to look at themselves as much as point fingers", I actually thought I was being overly hypercritical because nothing in the past week has happened that would provoke me. So I just thought I needed time and space. That was what I was looking for wrt replies on HN, but...

Upon retrospect, we have also both been testier ever since our first idea didn't work out. So far so good with the new one, but that first one was 6 months of 0 traction that changed our dynamic.

You've given me a lot to think about, and I will need to think about how to have a constructive conversation that will help us move on.

Glad it may have helped, all learnt the hard way.

One thing that's hard is having a dialogue where both people can speak openly and feel heard and understood and respected.

Often when relationships degrade, it turns into monologues crammed down each others throats and jumping to conclusions, instead of giving the benefit of the doubt and asking "what else could this mean?" in a positive way.

It's that much harder with coders who aren't always socially aware or developed as we might need to be.

It will be hard to have conversation about anything if you guys aren't comfortable with each others presence to begin with. What's needed is some form of an emotional breakthrough.

To that effect, maybe starting with a conversation saying sorry, I hope i haven't been short with you unintentionally, I didn't mean to so let me know what I mean if I come across in a way that doesn't seem positive or productive because that's what's most important. Hopefully you hear the same back from him, and if you don't you can say I want to make sure either of us can talk about how we're working together as well as what we're working on...

Feel free to connect offline if you need. It sounds like you care and that's a good thing, if you can confirm your partner does too there's a chance you can come out of this stronger and have each others backs. Instead of facing each other, you have to face the world together at each others side and let 1+1=11

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