Letter No 28 - Friends at work

"Don't tell me what to do. I'll figure it out myself" I said to my father. I was attempting to learn a thing or two about business accounts and he was attempting to teach me a thing or two . Both of us were struggling - with each other. "Let me show you how to make entries. It's easy" he said. I was eager to learn. He was excellent at his craft - making sense of numbers.

After a few attempts, I realised that learning from him was not going to be that easy.

"If you don't follow what I am telling you to do, I cannot teach you" he said after a few of my failed attempts to follow his instructions precisely. I was sincerely trying.

I felt that no matter how hard I tried, I was unable to meet his expectations.

I genuinely love and admire my father. He is a very good teacher. But somehow, between father and son the chemistry is often delicate. Slight expressions of his would get me feeling anxious. At times his voice would become a little terse, or he would raise his eyebrows, and that would put me in a spin. Maybe it was only because he was attempting to concentrate hard on the matter at hand. Or maybe he was trying his best to keep his patience with me!

But to me it looked as thought he was upset at me, and that would make me all nervous and antsy. My response would be to either go silent, or speak even louder than him as a defence mechanism. And thus a chain reaction would set in place. Often enough it ended up rather unpleasantly.

Has this happened to you with someone you love?


Working closely with and learning with people who are very close to us requires a certain level of discipline. It requires clear boundaries to be drawn out from both sides.

Today, I work with many people who I am very close to. Now the tables have turned. I find myself in a place where tiny changes in my expression or voice modulation seem to have quite an impact on the people I am attempting to teach / support / work with.

I think I am such an easy going person to be with and such a patient teacher.


I am.

But I do have my moments. I do have the little things that trigger me disproportionately more than they ought to. When someone forgets their own commitments, or someone takes things casually, or someone doesn't get involved sincerely enough in a task they took, I get triggered. Even if I attempt to control my reaction, my emotions show up in the form of change of tone, or a micro-gesture in some remote corner of my face.

And I know that people pull back from me when I do that. It creates distance. There is a drop of energy in the room. Productivity takes a beating. No one performs at their best or comes up with their best ideas when they are under stress.

The play of energy between people as we collaborate and do things together is so subtle and so powerful.

Do you know what triggers you about other people's behaviour?


Here are a few ideas I'd like to share when it comes to working together, especially with people who are close to you and you deeply care about:

Identify what triggers you about the other person.
Learn to recognise the triggers, anticipate them, and visualise an alternate, healthier, and more positive response to them in your mind. Anticipating triggers and visualising an alternate response is a powerful way to rewire our natural responses.

Find the time and space to let the other person know what triggers you about them.
It's only fair for them to know. Chances are, they are not aware of their own impact on you. Chances are, they want to enjoy the journey with you as much as you want to enjoy it with them.

Don't mix different aspects of the relationship in the same hour
Relationships are multidimensional. But learning to compartmentalise the personal time from the working time into separate boxes is an important step towards more mature relationships. Both of you need to be clear when you are relating at a personal level, and when you are relating at different level.

Focus on what you want to learn and grow from the association.
Every working relationship is about achieving an outcome. It's important to be clear about the outcome you desire for yourself, and keep that at the center of how you relate in the work part of the relationship. This will help you be more rational and will take energy away from the natural triggers that upset or bother you.


This happens between parent and child, mentor and mentee, teacher and student, husband and wife, and even friends who choose to work together.

Working with dear ones can be a very beautiful experience. I have worked very closely with people who are very closely to me. And I have also become very close to people who I work closely with. I would not given those times up for anything in the world. But one must take the necessary caution.

This one is quite personal and I'm really happy I could share it with you. I feel lighter. This has been weighing on my mind for a while. Thank you for reading.

Many of us have thought about launching a project or a startup with a friend or a loved one. We worry "should we mix work and friendship". Yes you should. Feel free to forward this to them and schedule a time to have a heart to heart chat.

In friendship and with gratitude,