Navigating Expectations

Navigating Expectations

Learning to navigate our expectations will help us to communicate our needs but also become aware of what is important to us. What I love about exploring expectations is questioning if my expectations are my own or if they are something that I have learned from others. 

I talk a lot with my clients on the topic of expectations because underneath them lies judgment. Now, this is neither bad or good, but more so an idea of what we believe is right or wrong, and what we feel should or shouldn’t be. 

So, what is an expectation? An expectation is a strong belief that something should be a certain way. 

The problem that I hear a lot is that people get frustrated when others don’t meet their expectations. They want their partner to automatically know that they had a rough day so would intuitively know that they needed a little extra TLC. Perhaps they have a friend who has stopped calling because they think your hands are full with two kids under three because they expect that you are run off your feet and super busy but instead you are desperate for some support. What if your new normal was that your family always got you anything with chickens on it and as each birthday or Christmas rolled around you weren’t disappointed by their action but instead hated it so much, yet you couldn’t break the news with them. 

Expectation can really hinder us and the key to navigating it is really rather simple. 

Instead of feeling frustrated with other people because they are not meeting your expectations the key is to communicate. This is something I teach to all my clients. Learning to articulate your expectations helps to close the gap on misunderstandings. 

If communicating your expectations feels a little daunting, it probably will be for the first few times you do it because you are doing something new. Whenever we do anything out of our comfort zone it feels awkward we are filled with nervousness. Don’t let this put you off. Because once you build this muscle it does become easier. 

So how do you go about communicating your expectations? First, it’s important to know what your expectations are in a situation. For example, I’m going to use a really common thing we all do – washing the dishes.  When I wash the dishes I do it in a particular way, I start with really hot soapy water, leaving the cutlery in the sink while I wash the glasses, cups, then I start doing all the plates or anything that is flat and stacking carefully before moving on to the bowls and cutlery. Finally, I finish with all the big stuff, the greaser the item the further it goes to the end of the pile – all while I construct a carefully curated dish washing pile that will dry by morning.

Now if someone came into my house and they offered to do the dishes, I’m a little hesitant because I don’t want to have to do it all again or finish the job, especially if the pile is massive. Normally, I would just let the person do it and hope for the best, and once they are done I would go and restack or finish it up. Couldn’t help myself, right, sometimes I would make more work for myself doing this. 

So what if I mentioned to the person how I like it be done or most importantly that they finish the whole job and not fill the strainer and leave the rest. The latter thing I stress now to anyone who attempts doing the dishes in my house. Because I have also learned that there is many ways to wash the dishes but at the end of the day as long as they all come out clean what does it matter how they have actually do it right. But for me my expectation is that they need to do it all, commit to the task and follow through to the end. 

When communicating your expectations, it is important to be clear with others the outcome you are looking for. When you share it, they can take it on board and they can either meet you there or offer a counter solution. 

Be clear, keep it short and get to the point. 

There is nothing wrong with asserting yourself, its a sign that you value yourself. You have standards and boundaries.

Who’s expectations do you carry?

One of the things before you get stuck into asserting your expectations out in the world – is to ask who’s expectations you are carrying, using the dishwashing again as an example – I was taught to do the dishes by my parents, I think it was my dad from memory from a young age, he did it the same as my grandma. I learned the method they did, day in and day out through my grandma washing up after each meal not just at the end of the day. The method is now mine. But when it comes to my expectations about doing the job that is wholly mine. The reason why I know it’s mine is because I get frustrated when someone walks away from the task and doesn’t finish – leaving a cold sink of dirty water (ew!) or they leave all the big stuff because the dishrack is so poorly stacked they couldn’t fit any more on it. What I value is when someone starts a job and sees it through to the end. That is all me, because I know when someone doesn’t my expectations are let down. 

So why do I get let down when someone doesn’t finish/follow through? This is again from learned experience, but through extensive investigation, it’s my personality, to go in and get it done and take it to the end. Don’t flip-flop or give up. I’m a doer and love people who are too. But that takes experimenting. I needed to understand that this expectation was mine, I can be a little more flexible with the how but the outcome of being done was important.

We need to be sure that the expectations we hold are ours and the reason why we believe them to be true.

To summarise when it comes to our expectations we must understand which expectations are worth investing effort in and which ones we might need to let go of. Knowing the ones we hold dearly are the ones we need to communicate to others so we can avoid miscommunication. 

When we communicate we strengthen relationships, it shows we are invested in our self-worth which boosts our confidence. That is why learning to articulate our expectations is so so important. 

I hope that this article has shone a light on how our expectations play out and how to navigate through them. 


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