Brad Feld, author of Startup Life, gets clear on having the same interests as your partner and compatibility. Spoiler: they’re not the same thing.
Compatibility doesn’t mean you need to be identical twins to live happily together. Compatibility really means respect: respecting your partner’s differences, acknowledging that she might have different ideas about a mourning routine, or how important cloth napkins are when entertaining, or how many shoes are enough. We believe that striving for an for an environment of fairness and taking turns can smooth out some of these differences; but some of the minor irritants of daily life can become precipitating events for big fights or serve as stand-ins for deeper, unaddressed conflicts.
Compatibility is obviously key for people who are just entering into new (or finding their way through existing) relationships. I’m sure you see this all the time in the startups you’re involved in. How do you suggest team members embrace understanding and compromise vs. the it’s-time-to-call-it-quits deal breakers?
The word “compatibility” is a loaded one. Think of the breakup line, “This isn’t working – we just aren’t compatible!” shouted at the top of one’s voice.
Understanding your partner is the first step to being compatible. Amy and I are very different people. We have lots of shared desires, experiences, and things we like. But we also are very different. She has a very sensitive sense of smell; my big jewish nose doesn’t work very well. Fashion matters to her; I’d wear the same jeans and t-shirt combo every day. She likes football, I call it the pointy-ball game. And the list goes on and on and on.
But this has nothing to do with compatibility. If you go back to the excerpt from Startup Life, lock on the statement “Compatibility really means respect: respecting your partner’s differences …”
I love that Amy is into fashion. And, when she decided to change my wardrobe a number of years ago by getting me Robert Graham shirts and Tom’s shoes to wear, I didn’t resist. Now I’m nerd stylish in crazy shirts—which she loves and I am amused by.
One year, Amy gave me the gift of no football. Instead of losing my Sunday’s to her screaming at the TV, we did something else. By the playoffs, I was actually kind of interested in watching some football, so we did it together.
Rather than generate conflict, we respect each other’s differences. We are comfortable enough with each other to bring them up. I knew Amy didn’t like it when I went to a nice dinner in a t-shirt, so I’d dress up for her. When she asked if I’d be up for a style refresh, I didn’t fight it because I knew it would make her happy. Instead of resisting it, I embraced it. Sure, I still wear plenty of t-shirts, but my uniform is now more colorful and fun. And it makes her smile every time she sees me.
Start from a position of respect for each other. Recognize you will have differences. Talk about them. Be flexible. And embrace change. That will make you compatible.
[image: via youtube.com]