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跟联合创始人闹掰了,该如何解决?

Laura Entis 2018年11月11日

创业伙伴出现分歧很正常,只要理解对方的沟通方式,就可以避免矛盾升级。

世界上最成功的一些初创公司都经历过联合创始人决裂的危机。图片来源:Halfpoint Images/Getty Images

去年11月,一切(再次)近乎崩溃的那天,约书亚·温纳醒来时满怀兴奋。那是个充满加州南部特色的美丽早晨。他迎着欢快温暖的阳光,开车穿过太平洋海崖蜿蜒的道路,路边都是名人和有钱人家的豪宅,大门紧锁。

他将车停在一栋牧场风格房子的车道上,为一天工作做准备。温纳和商业伙伴,也是创意合作伙伴克里斯·希尔曼已深入合作两年多,两人全身心投入一项充满激情的项目,即制作一部关于悲伤的纪录片。片中采访了各类专家,但核心是温纳和希尔曼关于情感的个人体验。两人都有兄弟服用海洛因过量去世,温纳的弟弟在2007年去世,希尔曼的哥哥于2009年去世。

房主是希尔曼的父亲理查德,他同意接受采访谈论儿子去世。采访很顺利,理查德相当健谈且言辞动人。之后,希尔曼、温纳和摄影师拍摄了一些辅助镜头。温纳建议希尔曼出镜,后来拍了些他跟爸爸一起的镜头。希尔曼并不高兴。两人吵了几句,温纳很快站起来。后来这点不愉快很快过去了。

或许只有温纳以为事情过去了,但后来他收到希尔曼发来愤怒的语音邮件,希尔曼显然没忘,他还愤怒地抱怨了一大堆:拍摄太不专业,摄影师犯了很多错,温纳控制时间不力,不肯放弃艺术方面的掌控,还有各种例子证明“我什么事都做不好”,温纳说。

有来必有回,“我停下手中工作。整整一天都被毁了。”后来温纳打电话给希尔曼,两人互相大吼。温纳挂断了电话。

好几个星期两人都没说话。为了这部纪录片他们投入了数百小时,还牵扯到痛苦的回忆和情感。两人都在想,会不会因为这件事两人一拍两散,项目也告吹。

这不是两人第一次差点散伙。

Last November, on the day in which everything almost fell apart (again), Joshua Wenner woke up excited. It was a characteristically beautiful morning in southern California; the sun beat cheerily down on as he drove through the winding roads of Pacific Palisades, lined with gated, landscaped estates owned by celebrities and the merely uber wealthy.

He pulled into the driveway of a one-story ranch style house, ready for the day ahead. Wenner and his business and creative partner Chris Hillman were more than two years deep into a passion project, a documentary about grief. While the film featured interviews with a variety of experts, its beating heart was Wenner and Hillman’s personal experience with the emotion. Both had lost a brother to a heroin overdose; Wenner’s younger brother passed away in 2007, Hillman’s older brother in 2009.

The house belonged to Richard, Hillman’s father, who had agreed to be interviewed about his son’s death. The interview itself went well—Richard spoke eloquently and movingly. Afterwards, Hillman, Wenner, and a cameraman shot some B-roll. Wenner suggested that Hillman get in the frame, so they had footage of him with his dad. Hillman didn’t like the idea. The two men butted heads, with Wenner quickly standing down. By the end of the day, the minor disagreement was forgotten.

Or so Wenner thought, until he received an angry voicemail from Hillman, who clearly hadn’t forgotten anything and angrily ran through litany of complaints: the unprofessionalism of the shoot, errors made by the cameraman, Wenner’s inability to set a schedule and cede artistic control, and other ways “I had fucked everything up,” Wenner says.

In response, “I shut down. I let it ruin my whole day.” He eventually called Hillman back, and they got into a shouting match. Wenner hung up.

They didn’t speak for weeks. The documentary they’d poured hundreds of hours of work into, not to mention painful memories and emotions, hung in the balance. Both men wondered if this was how their partnership and passion project was going to end.

It wasn’t the first time they’d reached a breaking point.

***

商业伙伴之间出现分歧非常普遍,仿佛密不可分。随便举出一家著名的创业公司,很可能联合创始人之间都出现过争斗,结果是一方将另一方挤出公司。 (例子:Facebook、Snapchat、推特、SoulCycle和特斯拉等等。)

创业公司的高调内讧事件总是很引人关注,但数百万美元,有时甚至数十亿美元都因此面临风险。硅谷的心理学家霍华德·斯科特·渥肖表示,但凡两人合作创立公司或合作创业,如果关系没有那么坚实的话,都要担心有决裂的风险。渥肖的主要业务是配偶和联合创始人关系咨询。

即使相互了解多年,非常喜欢彼此的人们也一样。以温纳跟希尔曼为例,两人2007年在论坛上相识,拍片子之前一直联系紧密。

渥肖表示,友谊和联合创始人的关系截然不同。他将公司或艺术项目的比例比作生孩子,是一种自我发现的过程:“无论之前你是谁,到了那点之后,你会发现自己出现一些全新变化,之前不管你和合作伙伴都无法料到。”

这种不确定性其实令人不安,因为你会感觉并不真正了解对方,尤其当每个错误的决定都可能威胁到项目时。如果风险很高,即使微小的分歧也可能感觉像公投,导致联合创始人之间争斗不已。

温纳和希尔曼便陷入了僵局。这不仅关于太平洋海崖边那次拍摄。其实在语音邮件吵架事件之前,他们就有过许多分歧,争论不断升级。似乎真有可能就此决裂。

两个人都不敢相信事态如此严重。

Disagreements between business partners are so common they’re a trope. Think of a famous startup, and chances are good its co-founders have fought, one very likely pushing out the other for good. (See: Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, SoulCycle, Tesla, among many others.)

While high-profile startup blow ups get the most attention—unsurprising, as millions, sometimes billions of dollars are at stake—any company or business partnership where two people are building something they care about is at risk of implosion if the relationship isn’t built on a strong foundation, says Howard Scott Warshaw, a Silicon Valley-based therapist who focuses on relationship counseling between spouses as well as co-founders.

This is true even for people who have known and liked each other for years before going into business, as was the case for Wenner and Hillman who met at conference in 2007 and kept in close contact before they started filming.

A friendship and a co-founder relationship are distinct, says Warshaw. He likens starting a company or artistic project to having a baby, in that it’s an exercise in self-discovery: “No matter who you’ve been up until that that point there are new parts of you that will emerge, that you and your partner have never seen before.”

This uncertainty—the feeling that you don’t really know the other person—is disquieting, particularly when it seems every wrong decision has the power to threaten the survival of the project. When the stakes are this high even minor disagreements can feel like a referendum, a dynamic that can pit co-founders against one another.

Wenner and Hillman were at an impasse. It wasn’t just the Pacific Palisades shoot. Leading up to the voicemail incident, they’d had a number of disagreements and weathered a series of escalating arguments. A permanent rift seemed likely.

Both men couldn’t believe they’d gotten to this point.

***

项目早期令人兴奋的那段时间,住在纽约的温纳和住在洛杉矶的希尔曼不断沟通,发信息、打电话,发邮件兴奋地交流想法。希尔曼说:“有时我们会聊几个小时,感觉像胸中一团火越烧越旺。”这部纪录片对两人都是一种解脱。有了合作伙伴,接触久久萦绕心头的主题时也没那么让人恐惧。几个月后,他们聘请了一位新员工,在洛杉矶会面之后开始拍摄。进展定期推进。接下来的几年里,他们每次见一两个星期拍片,慢慢将想法拍成镜头。

起初基本上没有冲突。从一开始,两人的角色就分得很清楚:希尔曼负责把控艺术细节。温纳负责掌握“大局”,他外向且温和,可中和希尔曼有时敏感易怒的性格,他还负责招募外部合作者和专家。

更重要的是,两人互相非常尊重,共同承担损失和也彼此理解。很长一段时间,他们专心投入工作,通过审视自身经历帮组观众更深入了解痛苦的含义,所以没什么分歧影响进度。 “我们追求的情绪非常深刻,都像逃离内心监狱一样。” 希尔曼说,“愿景和使命感非常强烈,所以各自行为的某些方面都不太在意。”

但关键是,两人没有坦诚讨论分歧解决问题,而且简单掩盖。随着项目拖延,两人关系越发紧张,冲突也越来越不容忽视。

两人都开始发现对方令人讨厌的一面,只是之前一闪而过没在意。温纳受不了希尔曼的脾气:“他经常生气,大喊大叫。一点点小事就能引爆怒火,他还经常生自己的气,然后发泄在我身上。”

与此同时,温纳性格温吞让希尔曼很难受,他还容易将中立评论视为攻击。开始拍摄之前,“我只是感觉他热情洋溢,做事投入。”希尔曼说。温纳事事防御的态度和害怕直接冲突“让我开始怀疑他。”

太平洋海崖拍摄前几个月,问题第一次出现,当时温纳向希尔曼转发了一封电子邮件,一位研究悲伤的著名学者刚开始有意参与,但拒绝接受采访。希尔曼问起温纳怎么找学者的情况,温纳认为希尔曼在批评。他以愤怒地辩解。当时正在旅行的希尔曼在邮件里简短回应了一句,“去你的。”事情就此一发不可收拾。

后来两人没有深谈,让事情自己过去。在渥肖看来,这种处理方式大错特错。“无法相互沟通并培养良好关系的创始人肯定会失败。”他说。如果过去有过非常不愉快的经历,又没有形成解决冲突的机制,一些看似微小的误解就容易导致翻旧账揭疮疤。

“关键不是新出现的事情,而是新仇旧恨一起算。”渥肖说。“人们往往不愿意为之前误解导致的积怨负责任。”

In the project’s heady early days, Wenner (who lives in NYC) and Hillman (LA) were in constant communication, excitedly running ideas by one another via texts, calls, and emails. “Sometimes we would talk for hours, just kind of, you know, feeding the fire,” Hilman says. The documentary was a relief to both of them; having a partner lessened the fear of approaching a subject they had both been circling, alone, for a long time. Within a few months, they hired a crew and met in LA to begin filming. Progress was periodic. Over the next couple years, they would meet up for one to two weeks to film, slowly converting their ideas into footage.

At first, these meetings were largely conflict-free. From the outset, their roles were clearly defined: Hillman was responsible for nailing the artistic details. Wenner was the “big picture” guy; outgoing and friendly to Hillman’s sometimes prickly personality, he was also responsible for recruiting outside collaborators and experts.

What’s more, the two men had a strong mutual respect, borne of a shared loss and the understanding that came with it. For very long time, the importance of the work they were attempting—to help viewers work through their own grief by examining their own—kept disagreements from derailing forward progress. “Because of the emotionality of what we were pursuing was so deep, we had a jail get out of free card.” Hillman says. “Our vision and mission was so intense that I think we got away with certain aspects of our respective behaviors.”

But problems, instead of being talked out and resolved, were simply papered over. As the project dragged, tensions grew more frequent and harder to ignore.

Both began to recognize unsavory traits in one another that they had only seen in flashes. Hillman’s temper grated on Wenner: “He would get mad and yell and scream. Little things would set him off, and he would get mad at himself and take it out on me.”

Meanwhile, Wenner’s penchant for stewing rather than addressing problems frustrated Hillman, as did his tendency to view neutral comments as attacks. Before they began filming, “I had only experienced him as this warm engaging person who puts himself out there.” says Hillman. Wenner’s defensiveness and fear of direct conflict “made me start to doubt him a little bit.”

These issues first came to a head a few months before the Pacific Palisades shoot when Wenner forwarded Hillman an email, in which a prominent researcher on grief who initially seemed interested in participating declined to be interviewed. Hillman responded by asking questions about how Wenner had approached the researcher, which Wenner read as criticisms. He responded with angry defensiveness. Hillman, who was traveling at the time, dramatically escalated the situation, responding with a curt, emailed: “Fuck you bro.”

They eventually smoothed things over without talking through any of the underlying issues. For Warshaw, that’s a red flag. “Founders who can’t communicate well and form a good bound — that can guarantee failure.” he says. When a shared history is fraught enough and there is no system in place to address conflict, seemingly minor misunderstandings are capable of reopening old, nasty wounds.

“It’s often not really about what’s happening in the moment, but the weight of accumulated resentment.” Warshaw says. “What people tend not to do is take responsibility for the resentments they created by miscommunicating in the first place.”

***

不过在语音邮件事件发生后,温纳和希尔曼难得地做到了认真沟通。一周后,希尔曼先提出了免战书。因为实际问题和两人处理的方式差距太大,迫使二人采取行动。这部纪录片对他们来说太重要了,不能继续吵下去。

所以两人细细梳理过去的冲突,主要是自我批评,也由此发现令人不安的真相。温纳发现自己处理冲突的方式倾向于被动:“我没告诉他真实的感受。所有事我都憋着,感觉就算他知道也没用。在他最需要知道真相时,却听不到我的真心话。”

另一方面,希尔曼则正视了自己的愤怒问题。每当感觉沮丧或受挑战时,他倾向于出口斥责,而温纳只能忍受他的暴躁脾气。温纳将怒气憋在心里几周,有时几个月之后,会忍不住跟希尔曼对抗,或者试图设定界限,紧张的关系就会爆发变成全面战斗。希尔曼推迟时间,温纳生气抱怨,导致希尔曼脾气更大,温纳只得退一步忍耐。这是个恶性循环,两个人停止沟通,进一步拖延拍摄。

他们理了理过去的冲突,分析各种因素的相互作用,确定沟通中的障碍,还有以后要注意和改变的方面。这项练习很有价值。现在温纳试着把担心的事直接讲出来发泄不快,哪怕只是很小的事,免得发展为严重纠纷影响进度。他也不再将希尔曼的直言快语当成批评。希尔曼方面,感到要失控时就注意管住脾气,多做深呼吸。他还努力鼓励温纳表达意见,避免不管不顾自己说了算。“我们之间80%的争吵都是因为其中一个人感到不受重视,”希尔曼说。“争吵的实际内容反而没那么重要。”

两人之间仍然会有冲突,特别是现在随着纪录片拍摄工作逐渐结束,准备参加各种电影节。两个人的性格都谈不上完全改变,温纳仍然倾向于压抑情绪,希尔曼还是急性子。但两人都表示更理解对方的沟通方式,这意味着误解升级之前可以及时处理。

“我们学会了多讨论。”温纳说。两人都表示如果换个项目可能很难做到这点。花上整个周六下午诚实地反省自身并不愉快,而且自省原本就是永远持续的行为。但如果两人想共同努力建立持久的伙伴关系,打造出优秀的作品,自省可能是必不可少的。(财富中文网)

译者:Pessy

审校:夏林

Miraculously after the voicemail incident, Wenner and Hillman were able to do exactly that. After a week, Hillman extended an olive branch. The gap between the actual issue at hand and their response to it scared them both enough to take action. The film was too important for them to continue on like this.

And so each combed through past conflicts with a critical eye to his own behavior, uncovering unsettling truths. Wenner noticed a passive aggressive slant to the way he handled conflict: “I wasn’t telling him how I really felt. I was holding everything back, and my story was, oh he can’t handle it, he can’t hear the truth when really he needed that more than anything.”

Hillman, in turn, saw an anger problem. He had a tendency to lash out when frustrated or challenged, and Wenner was often on the receiving end of his temper. Tension erupted into full-fledged fights when Wenner, after weeks, sometimes months, of swallowing his feelings, stood up to Hillman or tried to set boundaries. Hillman pushed back, which triggered an outpouring of resentment from Wenner, which set Hillman off further, causing Wenner to retreat. It was a vicious cycle that lead to long stretches of time when the two men stopped speaking, halting production.

They went through past conflicts, analyzing their interactions to identify breakdowns in communication and what they needed to be aware of and change going forward. It was a valuable exercise. Wenner now tries to work past his discomfort to voice his concerns, even minor ones, before they can morph into potentially schedule-stopping disagreements. He also stops himself from immediately reading Hillman’s blunt style as a critique. For his part, Hillman keeps tab on his temper and takes a breath when he can feel himself spiraling out of control. He also takes pains to encourage Wenner to voice his opinions and refrains from steamrolling them with his own. “Eighty percent of our fights is because one of us doesn’t feel heard,” Hillman says. “What we are fighting about becomes irrelevant.”

There is still conflict, especially now, as work on the documentary winds down and they prepare to enter it in festivals. Neither men are completely transformed: Wenner still tends to repress his emotions, Hillman remains a hot head. But both say they have a better understanding of how the other communicates, which means misunderstandings can be caught before they can turn into something more insidious.

“We’ve learned to talk through it.” Wenner says. For a different project, both say they might not have reached this point. Honest self-reflection isn’t a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, nor is a process that ever really ends. But for two people who want to work together to build a partnership and product that lasts, it just might be essential.

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