There are few things in life that effect our relationships, our ecounters and our interactions with other people as much as expectations.
Every time we move in a new experience of any kind we conciously or unconciously create different sets of hopes about what it will be like, what will happen and so on. Often we also create fears, things we do not wish to happen. Meaning we create a set of expectations. These can be a powerful ally and they can also be a pit fall that can mess things up in the most well meant interactions.
Imagine the following scenario; a Thursday meeting has been called at Department C3. On the agenda that has been sent out well in advance there is the item “Purchase of new computers”. Charlie goes to the meeting filled with a feeling of “finally it is time to get new computers” and looks forward to a quick decision that leads to buying and even better starting to use the new computers. On his way to the same meeting is Brian. He looks forward to meeting his collegues again and having time to discuss things that will lead to improvements in the workplace and of the company. He thinks “it is a great thing that a meeting has been called so we together can really find the best alternative for new computers”. Charlie arrives at the meeting looking forward to a fast and powerful decision, Brian arrives inspired by the thought of thorough discussion that leads to a well thought through decision.
About fifteen minutes later Charlie and Brian have collided head on. Either in a verbal flow of words or in wordless communication in the form of sighs and frustrated body language. Charlie is highly annoyed perceiving Brian as a slow thinking snail and Brian feels that Charlie is a high-speed bulldozer that just wants to run people over. This image of each other, is not spoken of though, instead they hit it out by being extremely not in agreement on the size of RAM-memory in the new computers.
It is clearly possible that there are other aspects of Charlies and Brians relationship that need to be dialogued, but if they had started the meeting with airing their expectations on meeting, they could have spent their energy talking about what their differences were really about, i. e. different expectations. Not on playing a mental and verbal tennis game around what is was really not about, i. e. the number of mega bytes in the RAM.
The advice to you is a simple as it is powerful, make it a habit to start all your meetings with a round-up of the expectations on the meeting. If somebody expects a five-minute quick meeting and somebody else a one-hour thorough meeting it is of great value to get this out in to the open. Another example is if somebody wants a fact-filled decision meeting versus somebody else who feels it is important to spend time on discussing the relationships in the group, then that needs to be adressed also.
Great is the number of relationships and conversations that have dug a hole for themselves due to unspoken expectations both in private life and at work. There is an expression that goes “assume makes an ASS out of U and ME”. There are many conflicts that I have encountered during my years of work in organizations and with people that could have been prevented and resolved in their early stages if the people involved would have been able to speak to each other about their mutual expectations on each other and the doings ahead. What were your expectations when you started reading this text? Did you hope for something that would give the answer to all your questions, something that solves your present problem or were you hoping for something that would stimulate your own thinking and give you tools to create your own solution to your problems? Regardless of which was true for you these different expectations will have effected how you feel now at the end of the text.
I wish for you excellent, rewarding and productive interactions with other people. It is my sincere hope that the above be helpful to you. If you haven’t already start practicing the question “what do you expect from this/me?” and put your listening ears on.
The author Markus Eriksson, is an international developer of human potential, having worked with organizations, leaders and individuals in Asia, Europe and America for over 10 years. He is a much appreciated meeting facilitator, speaker and multimedia author. He is also the creator of the “Everything Your Parents Did Not Tell You”-series in which he with a combination of straight forwardness, warmth and humor shares his knowledge to make you and the world even better. You can find him at http://www.advenire.com.