Managing Expectations: Why We Feel Let Down By People

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We have expectations in all aspects of our lives, and they adjust regularly based on our experiences. The problem is if our expectations aren't met we tend to feel annoyed, confused or dejected.

There have been times when I've been frustrated or annoyed with people in my life because they didn't act the way I expected them to. Perhaps they were late because they didn't leave the house on time, or they borrowed a book and never returned it. It could be as simple as they didn't put the tea jar back in the "correct" place.

Now yes, those people may have done something frustrating in my eyes, but chances are they were totally unaware of it. I didn't tell them I was unhappy, so how did I expect them to change?


I felt urged to write about this because I know I'm not alone. Time and time again I've talked with friends who are annoyed at someone in their life, and it's nearly always because that person failed to meet their expectations.

So how do we deal with managing expectations in our relationships in a healthy way?

Realising you have a lot more control in these situations than you think is step 1.

I read the following on a page I follow, and it totally changed my perspective:

"3 things to ask yourself before becoming bitter with them:
  1.  What expectations am I holding them to right now?
  2.  Have we communicated/agreed upon this expectation or am I just holding them to it in my head?
  3. Is it fair or realistic to expect this of them?
  Proceed from there..."

Remembering that your friends, family or partner are probably not aware of your thought process and are often completely unaware that you're not happy with them. So complaining to someone that the person should "just know" isn't going to get you the result you're hoping for.


Real life example:

"Ugh, Mike keeps leaving the teaspoons beside the sink. I'm getting really fed up with it!"
"Ok...have you spoken to him about this?"
"No...he should know to wash them, everyone else does!"

If we refer to the 3 points above, Mike did not know that he shouldn't leave the rinsed teaspoon beside the sink because nobody had communicated that expectation to him. When approached he explained he did that so other people could use the spoon for their tea not to use up all the cutlery before lunch. Poor Mike thought he was being considerate while it was being observed as laziness by others.

That was a minor issue, and there was an easy resolve. Not all situations will be that easily corrected.

If you expected to see your girlfriend/boyfriend at the weekend but you hadn't spoken to them about it, to later find out they are meeting up with a friend you're probably going to be annoyed or upset. However, if you didn't communicate that you set aside time for them on that day try to be gracious in that situation and realise your partner isn't wrong for making plans when they thought they had time.

"We cannot hold people to uncommunicated expectations in our mind and then resent them when they're not fulfilled. Not everyone is thinking on the same track. Eliminate the disappointment and frustration. Be clear about your needs friend and realise that some people may not be able to fulfil these areas of your life so that you can be free to know where they stand in your life and love them for who they are instead of holding them to who they're not." - Brittney Moses

So whether it's a spoon at the side of the sink or needing more quality time with a loved one, you need to communicate! Remember the 3 points. Don't assume someone will figure it out, speak up and discuss your needs.

"The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction." - Proverbs 16:23

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