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What does the word “expectations” mean to you? It typically conjures up images of measuring what may be coming your way (and hopefully not something that you’ve been lowering too often).  Expectations are important but, there is another angle from which to ponder this word: setting expectations. Think of it in terms of boundaries. When you set expectations with the people in your life, you are benefiting them and yourself.

When you set expectations with others in advance, you can be reducing a) spreading yourself too thin and b) the chances for a misunderstanding. You can see it as taking some of the guesswork out of your personal interactions. Let’s explore why all of this is so important.

6 Reasons Why Setting Expectations Is So Important


  1. Decreases Negative Interactions

Setting expectations allows you to be very clear about what you can do/are willing to do/are capable of doing with family, friends, colleagues, etc. In turn, this can help reduce the potential for anxiety, anger, and resentment.

It could be as simple as this: Someone asks you to help with some project around their house (cue enthusiastic “yes!” belying the concern about what you’ve signed up for). Upfront, you explain that you can do it but you have to be finished by a specific time. Thus, it should come as no surprise when you have to wrap up by that specific time. All things being equal, such advance warning will prevent a conflict about what was expected of you. If nothing else it gives you the guilt free rip of the “I told you…” as you leave but biting your tongue is probably the better move.

  1. Reduces Guilt

It’s not unusual for someone to feel bad about being unable to help a friend in need. Such guilt can be soothed when you explain your situation upfront. You let them what you’re capable of doing and, in turn, you do it. There is nothing to feel guilty about and your friend got at least some of the assistance they needed.

  1. No Playing the Martyr

To avoid the guilt mentioned above in #2, we may go overboard. We may end up doing more than we think we should or doing more than our share of the work. You can only give what you’re capable of giving. When you clarify this, you are free to do your part and feel good about it. This also keeps you out of situations that tax your time and/or emotional bandwidth. I’ve had many clients who are well intentioned but end up overextending themselves and feel resentful that their efforts are often not appreciated or reciprocated. When you manage expectations you will not carry the cross and nail yourself to it as often unless you’re a die hard masochist and we’ll get to that in another blog post…..

  1. Less Chance of Resentment

In the example we’ve been using, you are honest and direct in advance. Just as easily, it may be you who needs a blunt assessment of what a friend can do/is willing to do/is capable of doing.  Either way, resentment should be a non-factor. You both did your best to work together while setting a boundary as to how this could be accomplished.

  1. Allows For Alternatives to Be Explored

Let’s say you tell a friend: “We’d love to meet up with you this vacation but we have limits on how long we can be there because of the kids’ school schedule. I hope you understand.” Sometimes your tan needs to come first – just kidding…..   Doing this early enough leaves time for both parties to come up with alternative plans that might be more mutually agreeable.

  1. Hones Communication Skills

Aiming to be proactive in your dealings with others offers you a golden opportunity to refine your methods of communication. In a society where so much is left unsaid and the rest often happens in the postmodern digital wasteland, it is so essential to develop one’s ability to communicate in a clear healthy manner. Setting expectations is an ideal way to reduce tensions while enhancing an important skill set.  Embrace clarity! Serenity Now!

Getting Some Help

The skill of managing expectations is valuable but easier said than done like getting your kids to clean their bedroom or a roommate to wash their dishes consistently.  (I work with the dirty dish derelicts too so don’t let this scare you off if you’re a member of that group).  If you find yourself relating to what you just read, let’s connect for a free and confidential consultation to get you moving in a new direction.

Do you have any questions or would like help with managing expectations? Please contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

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