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Managing Expectations

Submitted by Lori Conlan February 7, 2022

Expectations are a natural part of life and are important because they provide clarity, help provide direction, and offer ways for accountability to be maintained. Despite expectations being essential, they can be complex to navigate. Below are three components that can make expectations challenging:

  1. Expectations are spoken and unspoken. Given that expectations can be explicit or implicit, expressed or inferred, miscommunications and confusion can occur. Just expecting that something will happen will not make it happen. Managing expectations effectively requires continuous communication.
  2. Unmet expectations can be difficult to process. When our expectations or hopes are not met, this can cause emotional responses, such as frustration, anger, or sadness. If we are unable to effectively cope with these feelings, they can negatively impact productivity, relationships, or future experiences.
  3. Expectations often require us to engage with accountability. Depending on your personality, relationship dynamics, or ability to maintain boundaries, creating accountability for yourself and others can be a challenge.

The complexities of managing expectations can cause avoidance, confusion, or fear. These responses can create even greater barriers to meeting our expectations and having our expectations met. With that in mind, it is important to find tools that help us navigate the complexities of expectations that exist in both our personal and professional lives. To attend to the nuances of personal and professional expectations, it is important to find tools that fit the context.

Here are three ways that you can work to navigate these challenges:

  1. Develop expectations up front and be open to renegotiating expectations. By developing expectations up front, we can set the direction, determine pace, and create the foundation for accountability. Dialoging about expectations should be open and continuous, allowing space for check ins, feedback, and reevaluation. Additionally, be aware that when more than one party is involved, expectations should be determined for both parties and this process should be collaborative.
  2. Be realistic when setting expectations for yourself. It can be a challenge to set realistic expectations. Whether they stem from perfectionist tendencies, comparison to others, pressure from internal or external forces, or lack of self-awareness, unrealistic goals can set us up for failure. Set yourself up for success by developing attainable and reach goals to promote completion and growth. This may require a sounding board or input from a supervisor.
  3. Practice letting go. It can be easy to let our negative emotions dictate how we navigate unmet expectations. Letting go does not mean that we ignore these emotions. Rather, we can acknowledge and move through the emotions. To do this, we can use the 3 R’s to help practice resilience: reframe, revise, and refocus--explore what happened, revise your action plan based on what you learned, and embrace the new action plan.

Guest Blogger: Jenn Wiggins, MA, LPC: Wellness Advisor, OITE
Part of the “Voices of OITE” series.

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