Dealing with Unmet Expectations
I have often viewed my own desires and expectations as being too uptight or too controlling for most people's liking. Growing up, I have carried a belief that to be liked I should be more easy-going, or that I should try to not want or need the things that I do.
This has historically played itself out as me downplaying my leadership abilities, dismissing my own desires, or beating myself up for not being "accepting enough"... mostly in the name of pleasing others or trying to be a better person.
But the reality is that we all have needs and expectations. Depending on what we value, others' expectations may seem unreasonable or irrational to us. At the same time, depending on what others value, our expectations may seem unimportant to them.
The other inconvenient reality is that we often require the compliance and involvement of other people to get our expectations met in life. This poses a challenge - how do we get others to meet our expectations when they fundamentally value something different?
The first and most obvious answer is to surround ourselves with those who share our values and thus share our expectations. But we all know that this is not always possible, particularly in the case of family-ties or the workplace.
Experiencing unmet expectations and resulting disappointment and resentment has plagued me at various points in my life. And to be completely honest, I have often enjoyed blaming others for this - believing my expectations to be superior and right, while others' expectations or values to be less-evolved or wrong in some way.
I've had to learn some big lessons around arrogance and entitlement, that have since allowed me to better understand and respect others rather than simply viewing them as wrong.
As I've journeyed through this, I am grateful to report that I have discovered some truly effective (and thankfully - more humble) solutions.
We can get our needs and expectations met, even when others (whose help we often require) value something entirely different.
Firstly, we must truly accept and honour our own expectations - deciding that they are important to us, and that they are worthy of investing time and energy towards fulfilling. This means we need to be aware of the expectations and desires that we may have dismissed for another's sake, that are still lingering as resentment, anxiety, or frustration. Basically, we start by honestly acknowledging our expectations to ourselves.
A key part of this is self-acceptance! Deciding that it is truly OK to want what we want.
Next, we must be aware of the beliefs we have regarding our expectations. For example, if we have experienced a lifetime of unfulfilled expectations in one area, we likely carry beliefs that it is not possible for us to have those expectations met. Therefore, it's necessary to change our mind-set towards that particular expectation(s) in such a way that we can empower ourselves to create or fulfill it.
At this point, we have
1) awareness of our expectation
2) given ourselves permission to desire what we desire
3) and decided that it is possible to have our expectations met.
Another point worth highlighting is that we must acknowledge any resentment or blame towards others as our own feelings of powerlessness projected onto someone else. It's that whole accountability thing again...
This leads us to the strategies of how you can inspire compliance, help, commitment, or understanding from others in regards to your own expectations.
1. Transparency: Being transparent, and thus vulnerable, about who you are and what you need makes you relatable. It causes others to see you as a human similar to them who also has needs. This empathy inspires others to want to support you (read: to help you get your needs and expectations met!). This means communicating what you need and WHY you need it.
Why is it important to you? How do you feel if it doesn't happen? (unsafe? anxious? stressed?).
2. Forgiveness: Carrying around resentment and frustration towards others (or the world in general) for the fact that you have unmet expectations pushes others away and gets you less of what you want. A person who carries resentment easily becomes one of those people that other's feel like they need to walk on egg-shells around. It creates fear, avoidance, or even resentment towards you from others. Your resentment often shows up as outbursts, passive aggressiveness, or condescension, which harms your relationships with the very people you are trying to get help from! Instead, do what it takes to forgive others, forgive yourself, and start fresh at getting your expectations met.
3. Humbleness: When you can acknowledge the fact that other people's needs and expectations are valid, respectable, and true from their experience of life, you can work towards creating agreements with them that allow for both people's expectations to be met. Ask the question: How can we both get our needs met in this situation?
The longer you choose to carry an entitled attitude towards your expectations and values - believing them to be more important or justified than those of others', the more difficult you will find it is to inspire others to want to support you.
4. Communicate from a place of accountability: When you can communicate and ask others for what you need while simultaneously acknowledging that it is YOU who needs their help, inspiring the support of others comes from a place of request rather than demand. When you give others the ability to say yes or no, they will feel respected and empowered rather than obliged. Thus, when you receive a yes, it is often more meaningful as the other person feels they actually consented to the matter.
Also, by being accountable for your own expectations and your own ability to inspire others to support you, you build trust in your relationships. More trust results in stronger relationships, which often causes others to take more pride in supporting you.
5. Immediacy: While it is not always possible or beneficial to voice a concern or expectation in the very moment it arises, the sooner we voice our needs, the less time there is for resentment to fester. As a general rule, voice your needs in the present moment, or else develop an awareness such that you can choose to voice it later without harbouring resentment in the meantime. Once again, this strengthens relationships as others begin to trust that you will be upfront and honest with them rather than silently resenting them.
In many cases, unmet expectations of others are the result of not having learned how to communicate and be accountable in a way in which we can truly inspire others to meet our expectations.
Whether we create a dialogue involving agreements from which both parties benefit, or we inspire compliance through vulnerability, utilizing the right tools we can get our needs and expectations met, even when others (whose help we often require) value something entirely different!