Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Clash of Expectations

Like many of us I have mostly my own experiences from which to draw the lessons of life. If I allow myself to be open to the lessons as they come along, I will most likely find satisfying growth as the outcome.

One of the life lessons that I have had many opportunities to face through the years is that of competing expectations between two or more persons. It is not that people start out to compete. It is that more often than not, when a project goes awry it turns out those engaged in it had different expectations of what was to be done, how it was to be done and who was going to do it. When you get right down to it, they may not really agree on what the goal was in the first place.

When this difference in expectations surfaces (and it almost always will be a surprise) it can be devastating to the project and the relationships between those involved. Sometimes the blowup can scatter the emotions, the respect and the trust one person has for another. If this happens, it is essential to find a way to defuse the negative energy so as to not destroy the connection with the other person or the project.

If what you were attempting to accomplish is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Find a way to resolve the problem. Find a way to be the agent of change by returning to your spiritual center point for clarity of your purpose. In finding and reaffirming your purpose you will be in a better position to communicate it to your partners. They will then be in a better position to share theirs with you. It really only takes one person in a group to get clear for others to begin to clarify their own views. Then communication can begin on a new level of respect and trust.

How to accomplish this “fix” is not as difficult as one might think. At first you may feel threatened. Your body may actually shake with fear of losing something important—a friendship or a dream. Take a deep breath! Remember the idea and creative energy that brought forth this project, that brought you together with the others involved. There was a feeling of confidence, trust and a willingness to risk together. That really has not changed even though a disparate vision of the project may have surfaced. With that deep breath re-envision your dream and your positive relationship with your partners. With that deep breath reaffirm your belief in your ability to clearly communicate with the others sharing this dream.

Families often encounter situations where different expectations surface. We move along together, often assuming we are each seeing things the same way and want the same results. The fact of the matter is no two of us ever see things exactly the same way. Think for a moment of two people standing ten feet apart and looking at some object, such as an automobile. One might see the front grill, the other may be looking at the doors on the side of the car. Same car, different viewpoint. Once we realize we have the same general goal or vision, we can agree to examine each other’s particular insight about it.

One key is being honest in your dealings with family or partners. You cannot pretend to be working together or sharing a dream when you really are not. It is better to say, “That is not my dream. That is not what I want to be doing.” Do not lead others to believe you are sharing something in common. Once it is established that you have separate goals or priorities you can honor the choice you each have made and go on about your own dream.


The Logisitician said...

I agree with your comments, 99%. What aspect of your discussion with which I disagree? The fact that the conflict in expectations is often a surprise. After managing people and dealing with many clients, I learned to appreciate that virtually every relationship is about expectations. Consequently, when assembling a team to work on anything, I strongly suggest taking time to let all participants discuss their expectations, priorities, method of execution, etc. It cuts down dramatically on the tension and drama.

Dan Perin said...

My suggestion that competition most often comes as a "surprise" is based on the fact that we do not meet, as you suggest, to discuss the expectations, priorities and method of execution. Out of naive assumption we think we are on the same page without examining whether or not that is the case.
Thanks for your comments! They help lead to re-examination of statements that might need more thought.

Elaine said...

Hi Dan! It's a different viewpoint on the expectation subject from my post. A great homework for me to extend my rough thoughts. Thanks a lot!