Are You Setting Yourself Up For Disappointment?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I usually do a pretty good job of communicating my expectations to others, and I emphasize the word usually. Sometimes I fall short and when I do, I set myself up for disappointment. If I’m expecting someone to do something, be somewhere or say something but they are unaware of these expectations, I’m heading down the road toward frustration. And, I usually end up angry, irritated, or hurt without any real justification for it because the people who didn’t live up to what I expected had no idea what I was expecting. I’m the one who loses.

As I’m sure you’ve experienced, this can occasionally (frequently?) happen in relationships. I hear friends, clients, and myself saying things like “he should have known I wanted him to come home early” or “she knows I get upset when she forgets to text me that she arrived home safely”. And this is when I remember to ask myself: Do they really “KNOW” what it is I want? Have I communicated this clearly? Or am I assuming they’ve read my mind?

This tends to happen more easily with our long-term relationships and friendships. Because we are close with people, we assume they know us, know what we need and expect from them in the relationship. Perhaps they do but I still believe that expecting some type of behavior or action from someone else without sharing that expectation with them is a recipe to set yourself up for disappointment. Even people who love you and make you a priority get caught up in their own stuff; they may forget to text or call. They may not even know you’re waiting for it.

This also frequently happens in the workplace. Managers forget to set clear expectations with their employees and then get frustrated when things don’t proceed or end up as they wanted. How many times have we all experienced this? As both a manager and an employee?

I think the bottom line is that we’re all moving fast, we’re all busy and caught up in our own lives and tend to assume others “just know” what it is we’re expecting of them (whether in a work or personal relationship); when, in reality, the only way to be certain is to communicate these expectations. Assuming others know what you need or are expecting is setting you up for disappointment, anger and frustration. Having a quick conversation is typically all it takes to avoid those unnecessary emotions.

And, I write this as a reminder to myself too. I set myself up for disappointment last week when I expected my husband to do something he had no idea about; then when it didn’t happen, I was frustrated. But I had no one to blame but myself – I never told him; I just assumed he knew… after all, we’re married! And that is probably when we need to make the most conscious efforts to clearly communicate what we’re expecting – when we think that the other person knows us so well, they should “just know”. Chances are they don’t and they won’t, unless you take the time to tell them.

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