Continued on from my post last week, here’s what I learnt about communication and collaboration from my involvement in the epub:
- Never speak to each other under the influence of emotion. This doesn’t mean you push your own emotions aside or never speak up for yourself. Just wait till you feel you are calm before you start compiling your email responses or in the case of chat, just say “I’m not calm now, I don’t want to speak any more, we carry where we leave on now another day”. But make sure that you do actually come back to it with the other person promptly otherwise it’s like leaving stuff on the burner without attendance.
- Words can hurt and there’s no means to undo or take back hurt. It doesn’t matter that your intention wasn’t to hurt and the other person misunderstood your intentions. If someone actually tells you that they have issues with your words/conduct, acknowledge their feelings first and then explain about your original intention. Please don’t rush to dismiss the other’s feelings (remember that all feelings are valid, you can disagree with other people’s opinions, you can’t disagree with other people’s feelings) and justify yourself by saying that the other person is just over-reacting or have an agenda against you.
- To fulfil the purpose of real communication, both parties need to be assertive as opposed to aggressive or submissive. It’s not good enough that you intended to communicate but phrased things so aggressively that the other person gets offended and you effectively say “I’m just being yourself, I’ve always been like this, if you understand my true intentions, why are you taking me up on phrasing issues?” Well, if you really mean to communicate, the basic idea is to get the content of what you want to say across to the other person, not some negative tone underlying your words which then triggers adverse feelings in the other person who then closes down in intellectual comprehension due to such feelings. So really, everyone please read over your own emails before sending them off and when someone reports that they are upset over certain phrasing of yours, just acknowledge this as being valid.
- This is specific to my own personality but it is almost a prerequisite for me to actually work out some basic premise of the conditions surrounding the collaboration before joining rather than jumping on board based on emotions and specifically friendship. I already had a taste of this when I automatically agreed to be my best friend’s bridesmaid but then pulled out upon further consideration. I’m happy to report that this didn’t end up blemishing our friendship but instead made it stronger. But in terms of the epub, this jumping on board on my behalf has been entirely disastrous. I actually wanted to discuss between all collaborators at the very start so we can work out differences or just compare notes in visions. But one collaborator of mine convinced me and everyone that we have an experimental enterprise and it’s better to fine-tune things as we go. And then it’s basically constant warfare between me and him because of our differing visions. Again, this is specific to me and him but I think in general, working out common grounds before a collaboration even started is a good strategy for ensuring group harmony.
- When disagreements occur, don’t go for compromises. Instead, go back to square 1 and actually try to find the lowest denominator of agreement between the two of you over the issue and start from there.
- Trust each other as collaborators. Don’t hold back when you encounter problems. Notify each other promptly. Especially don’t hold back with the view that you are sacrificing for the common good. If all of you are true collaborators, no self-sacrifices are needed, that is just some excuse you make up yourself because you are conflict avoiding in some way. And you can’t trust yourself to hold onto such a martyr attitude for the long term.
- If you genuinely believe yourself to be incompatible with a collaboration, gracefully exit. No matter of your emotional attachment, if you’ve been genuinely accumulated a large stock of negative emotions associated with a collaboration venture and you just can’t resolve this with your collaborators, then just cut your ties. It’s really not worth your time, effort and emotional attachment to stay in a collaboration where you can’t work with people who share the same values with you.
That’s all of my self-reflection on the epub and it’s probably obvious that I went through some intense communication and relationship problems during the course of the epub. But I’m happy to report that I still feel that I gained more than I had lost and I have much more promising collaborative creative writing projects planned ahead with my other collaborator who co-wrote Empress with me in issue 1 of Excursions from the Citadel. I won’t be appearing in future issues of the Excursions beyond issue 3 but I’m not disappearing as a writer. You will continue to hear about writing updates from me so stay tuned.