Expectations Are Problematic

Spouses, friends, vendors, customers, employees, family …… we all carry expectations of other people. I want to propose that expectations are the source of hurt feelings, disappointment, and resentment. You create your own disappointment and resentment by having expectations of others. You also facilitate frustration and irritation from others by having expectations of them. Trying to meet expectations is a people pleasing exercise in social guesswork.

Many, upon a casual consideration of eliminating expectation, will protest. “Are you telling me it is wrong to expect other people to live up to their responsibilities? Shouldn’t employees be on time? Shouldn’t I expect a vendor to do a good job and take care of business? Do you think it is wrong for my customers to expect me to provide good customer service?

My friend, it is not morally wrong to have expectations. There is just a more gentle and kinder alternative. Agreement. When we agree, we are set free from expectation. Often expectation is based on assumption. I assume that you just know what I want. Expectation assumes that the other party should just do a certain thing by a certain time in a certain way. And when they don’t, then the stories, drama, and blame game are in full swing.

In contrast, agreements are created in an open, transparent communication filled with listening and understanding. We bring all expectations out of our heads and into the light. After an honest discussion, we create an agreement and eliminate all expectation. In a strong agreement, there is nothing left to assumption or hope. If both parties are trustworthy and commit to the agreement, the murky stress and guesswork of expectation has ended.

What if someone fails to keep an agreement? We simply revisit the agreement together and establish what happened with the agreement as the accountability. The agreement serves as the heavy in the conversation. Keeping agreements is an issue of integrity. We can apologize and forgive each other for not meeting the agreement and move forward with a new agreement and commitment if we choose. If someone continues to violate agreements, then there is no basis for a trusting relationship. When you create a strong agreement, expectations are irrelevant.

If you currently have a strained relationship riddled with unmet expectation, I challenge you to take the and have an open, empathetic, curious, compassionate conversation with the goal of setting a clear agreement. It’s beautiful and amazing!!

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