Collaboration is hard. Connecting is harder.

I would rather collaborate than connect. I will pick a professional collaboration over an intimate bond ten times out of ten times. A collaborative professional relationship has a common foundation – the office – and while you may be lucky enough to collaborate with someone with shared values or a compatible personality, the most important characteristic for me are boundaries.

Intimacy is difficult for me. I choose to avoid it. The vulnerability that I have to share with other people far outweighs the benefits of any type of relationship with them. There has to be something about safety that appeals to me. I understand how important it is to be honest with those that you are close to but even for those people that I am closest to, they still do not know everything about me. This also includes my wife. It is funny. My wife and I were talking about this at dinner about a week or so ago. We have been together 12 years, married for 10, and she is still not my best friend. She still does not know everything about me. She tolerates me, all of my idiosyncrasies, my emotional meltdowns, my ups, my downs, and she has seen me at my best and my worse. She has stood by me when no one else has and has supported me when no one else has. However, she is still not my best friend.

My best friend is a former college football teammate who lives in North Carolina. We talk about how much weight we lift, how the New York Yankees will not win the World Series even though we agree with the current regime’s vision of the direction the team is heading, and old war stories, where we hit just a little harder, drank a little more and dated better-looking women than we remember.

I will say that while she is not my best friend, my relationship with my wife goes far beyond the normal husband-wife bond. I do love her because she supports me – my megalomaniacal work ethic and my love of 12-hour workdays, where I do more around the office than I ever do at the house. I wonder how many other husbands say the same thing. I will not bring her flowers or give her candy on Valentine’s Day but our relationship is best characterized by trust, reciprocity and support.

At the end of the day, the support we provide to one another is important because of the imprint it makes on our professional and personal lives. You may also see yourself and your important relationships as we see ours – as a collaborative work of art. It was a metaphor coined by Mandy Len Catron in a November 2015 TED talk titled, A Better Way To Talk About Love. This metaphor emphatically stresses compromise, patience, shared goals, creativity, discipline and communication. Communication is hard for us and we will admit it isn’t easy. Nevertheless, it is so much better than the alternative, which is a thing that felt like madness.

By Dr John R. Nocero

References
Catron ML. (2015). A Better Way To Talk About Love. TED Talk. Retrieved January 11, 2017 from http://www.ted.com/talks/mandy_len_catron _a_better_way_to_talk_about_love/transcript?language=en