Whether you’re learning to write or learning to ride, having a training partner can be fun and motivational. But you should be careful whom you choose to take with you on your journey to less suckage.
Working with a bad partner is exactly like running with an unruly dog, except that a dog’s hair is more lustrous. And like dogs, bad partners come in a number of different breeds:
1. The Illusionist
Who’s this? This is the guy who gets really gung-ho when you first talk about training for real, but pulls a disappearing act when practice time comes round. He’ll always have some excuse when you confront him about it (sometimes a good one), but he’ll never put his money where his mouth is.
How to deal: Don’t bother following up on this guy. If he really wants to go, he will. Life’s too short to listen to empty promises.
2. The Know-it-all
Who’s this? When you practice, he’ll always, always know better than you (or anyone else), even if you’re both starting from zero. There’s always going to be some piece of wisdom he picked up from the internet or from his personal network of “experts”.
How to deal: Listen politely, but don’t trust his advice further than… well… just don’t trust his advice.
3. The Soap Bubble
Who’s this? Pride can be as fragile as a bubble, especially for this guy. He bursts into a mess of frustrated tears at the slightest criticism (I exaggerate, but only slightly). You’ll have to constantly rebuild his paper-thin pride and get him back on his feet, and that’s just going to drag you down.
How to deal: I’m not a fan of ditching a friend in need, but you’re eventually going to get tired of playing cheerleader. You’ll have to decide for yourself if practicing with him is worth the trouble. (Note: I’m not saying you should stop being friends).
4. The Fanatic
Who’s this? This guy practices like there’s no tomorrow. He’s into it so much that it’s practically a lifestyle. While that’s not a problem in and of itself, he has a low regard for people who aren’t him. Other people are “lightweights” or “wannabes”, and aren’t worth talking to if they can’t meet his standards.
How to deal: Be very wary of the fanatic. While he’ll know what he’s talking about (most of the time), his snide comments endanger your self-esteem. If you can get him to tone his nerd rage down, he could be a great resource. If you can’t, keep him at a distance, and don’t be afraid to push back if he starts to intrude on your comfort zone.
5. The Bungee Buddy
Who’s this? Unlike the Illusionist, the Bungee Buddy actually shows up. Sometimes. But then he’s missing the next day, or has to cut your practice short because he’s got stuff to do. And that’s not the worst of it. I think the really frustrating part about the Bungee Buddy is that he could be the ideal training partner if he could just show up on a regular basis.
How to deal: You could compromise by shifting your practice calendar around, but set limits. Don’t sacrifice your own training effectiveness to accommodate him.
6. The Barnacle
Who’s this? For the Barnacle, practice is a social activity. He doesn’t really train, he just follows you around the gym and talks to you for two hours. Even non-physical activities like writing or hack jams are just a venue to sit and shoot the breeze with anyone who’ll listen.
How to deal: There are a number of ways you can handle this: tuning him out with earphones is my favorite. It’s indirect and puts up a wall that most people will immediately back away from. If he’s persistent, I would gently steer the conversation towards practice, and what he should be doing. Depending on who I’m with, I would only directly confront him about it as a last resort.
The Last Word
Just remember that you you’re never “stuck” with a bad training partner. You can still train alone. Heck, it might even be better for you! And if you need someone to talk to, just talk to yourself. That way you can have an intelligent conversation! (But don’t blame me if people think you’re crazy.)
Image credit: patchattack, Flickr.