Good morning and happy Monday!
Have you ever started a new job only to discover the job was different than you expected? Have you ever joined a team with anticipation and alacrity only to discover the experience was a mismatch with your expectations? (Alacrity is my new word of the week… thank you Tom M.!)
How about a time when you and your spouse (or friend) went on a vacation, only to discover your traveling companion wanted to spend their vacation doing vastly different activities than you had envisioned? Maybe you wanted to lay by the pool, relax and read; and they wanted go site seeing, or adventure seeking? Did your dream vacation end in disappointment? Perhaps an argument? Or maybe with unspoken resentments?
Let me take you on a short rabbit trail to explain a common phenomenon, happening in nearly every relationship, situation, or aspect of life. It has to do with breaking unspoken expectations we might not even know exist.
I grew up in a small rural farm town as part of a large family. My wife grew up outside urban Chicago as part of a mid-sized family. While growing up, both of us (indeed all people) had mental “video recorders” running almost continuously. Our childhood experiences and lessons were being recorded for future reference.
While growing up, we both watched our respective parents interact as people, as parents, and as spouses. From those earliest recordings, we were forming mental models of how people, parents, and spouses are supposed to behave and respond.
As a result of those lifelong recordings and mental models, both Becky and I entered our marriage with thousands of implicit expectations of each other, most of which were never shared, discussed, or made explicit by either of us. I suspect many of those expectations remained well below the surface, in our subconscious minds.
We each had mental models on how our children would be raised, parented, encouraged, and disciplined. We also had paradigms and beliefs about how couples are to properly interact with each other; to show love, resolve conflict, encourage one another, argue, and even how to apologize, kiss, and make up.
Consequently, we often find ourselves in violation of each other’s implicit expectations, without even realizing that is the case. This was particularly true in the early years of our relationship. There were occasions when we both unintentionally, and unknowingly, fell short of each other’s unspoken expectations.
Have you ever experienced mismatched expectations with an important person in your life? If so, then you already know this experience can lead to disappointments, unspoken resentments, hurt feelings, arguments, and the like. These situations can easily spin out of control if not shared, discussed, and resolved in healthy ways.
Now, I submit to you this phenomenon doesn’t happen only in our marriages or other important personal relationships. It can happen anywhere, and in any place, where people enter a situation with pre-formulated expectations which are often based upon past experiences, in other places, with other people.
The list is endless but includes; starting a new job, joining a new team, or getting a new manager, finding a new church or trying a new restaurant, going to a new gym or on a first date, hiring a new babysitter, doctor, barber, or hair stylist… you get the point. The opportunities for mismatched expectations are everywhere and happen every day.
Suggested action items for the week:
First, take it personally:
- Work to become more aware of your own subconscious & unspoken expectations.
- Don’t expect others to be able to read your mind. You can’t expect people to meet your expectations if you haven’t shared, discussed, and/or agreed to them?
- Don’t hold grudges regarding mismatched expectations. Use those situations as opportunities for dialogue and understanding.
- Recognize we all have unspoken expectations at some level. (This includes your spouse, friends, teammates, and coworkers.)
- If you expect others to meet your expectations, recognize they also have expectations of you.
- Make it easier for others to share and discuss their hoped-for outcomes.
At work, as managers and/or team leaders:
- Role model in the sharing, discussing, and negotiating of expectations.
- Continually discuss, clarify, and reinforce job requirements and expectations.
- Help your team create a set of “working agreements” or team “code of conduct.” Revisit the agreements on a regular basis. Ask, “How are we doing with keeping these agreements?”
- Continuously work to make implicit expectations explicit when possible.
- Help team members negotiate mutual expectations.
In all situations, apologize any time you break an agreement or fall short of another’s expectations, even when by accident or done unintentionally.
Bonus quotes below.
How will you live, love, or lead differently, or better, this week?
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- “Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” – Paulo Coelho
- “High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation. – Charles Kettering
- “When you have expectations, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.” — Ryan Reynolds
- “If you align expectations with reality, you will never be disappointed.” – Terrell Owens
- “When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” – Donald Miller
- “A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.” – Jonathon Lockwood Huie
Title: What do You Expect?