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Manage Expectations to Reduce Everyday Frustrations

Just today my partner Russ and I sat down to hash out a nagging frustration. It took a little bantering back and forth [not without some rise in emotional tension I'll have you know] until we got at the heart of the issue.

Unmet expectations!

Stop and look back at the last time you were frustrated with your life or business partner. Odds are it was because he/she did not meet your expectations.

Expectations of?

  • Leaving the toilet seat up or down
  • Making the bed
  • Meeting you at the restaurant on time
  • And so on.
These expectations can be small or large, simple or complex, pertinent or absurd; the point is that somewhere in your head you expected something different to happen than what did happen.
So, most every time you find your level of frustration on the rise it is because your partner acted contrary to one of your myriad expectations. Now that you've become more or re-aware of this what can you do about it?besides hoot and holler?

The first step is to identify what the expectation is

For example: My husband expects that we arrive at least 15 minutes early for meetings where we are the speakers, as he likes to greet attendees and take our position behind the podium in a timely manner. When for some reason I get caught talking with someone outside he gets perturbed.
Now before we had a dialog about this and how important it is to him I didn't have a clue. The same holds true for how he and I squeeze the toothpaste!

What are your expectations with your life partner regarding?

  • Taking out the trash [who does it and when, every day or only when it reeks to high heaven?]
  • Being intimate
  • Raising your children
  • Getting the oil changed
  • Balancing the check book
  • Hanging out with members of the opposite sex
And with your business partner what are your expectations regarding?

  • Time and effort put forth
  • Taking time off
  • Doing the work neither of you much enjoy
  • And the list goes on.
Once you have identified which expectation is being stomped on address it with your partner [when you emotions are in check] and find out what his/her expectations are around the same issue. At times you'll find that your partner doesn't care and readily does it your way, and other times he/she has opposing expectations [like the proverbial squeezing the toothpaste scenario]. If that is the case you have some work to do.

Where do our expectations come from?

Our expectations generally are spawned during our childhood years. I recall when our daughter was about five years old and she came home from visiting our neighbors rather concerned and said, "Jason's mommy and daddy are mad and his daddy went away. Mommies and daddies must stay together." Her expectation was [and still is now that she is 26 and married] that couples work it out.
Take a moment to reflect on some of your expectations; you might just chuckle about where some of them come from. Like the one about the ham?
Mother is teaching her daughter how to cook ham for a holiday dinner. "Mom, why do you cut off the ends of the ham before putting it in the casserole?" Mother stops to think for a moment then says, "Because that's how grandma did it." Fortunately Grandma is visiting and is sitting in the front room reading to her five year old grandson. "Grandma, why do you cut the ends off the ham?" Grandma smiles and says, "Why child, because when your mother was young the pan was too small."

Choose your battles

Depending on the expectation you may want to concede so that in another area your partner will agree to your preference. Determine which expectations are most important to you and which are most important to your partner. Be prepared for some give and take.

Find a better way.

When expectations are in conflict, it is frequently best to sit back and look at what is best for the situation or the relationship. Who takes out the trash may vary according to work schedule and availability. When to take out the trash may be determined by sanitary concerns. When individual expectations clash the fastest way to resolve the concern is to create a totally new expectation that fits you and your life or business partner best.

If you are a workaholic working 16 hours a day and your partner puts in 8hours you need to look at what your business demands and set your expectations to line up with your business plan and goals.

In a partnership, life or business, remember that your expectations may need to be realigned so that they work for the good of the relationship.

Margrit is a former Team Relationship Consultant for First Union Securities [now Wachovia], Morgan Stanley, and many small business owners and professionals. She was a marriage and family therapist for several years as well. Today Margrit offers free relationship advice on-line, writes articles for Horsesmouth [an on-line service for financial advisors] and makes money selling her Relationship Tests [called Awareness Tools]. Soon her Relationship Principles e-books [for Life and Business Partners] and other stuff to make bad relationships good and good relationships great will also be available at http://www.stratateam.com/WhyitWorks.asp

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