One of my wife’s favorite quotes is “all frustration stems from unmet expectations” (I was able to find several possible sources for it). She uses that to remind herself that if she’s feeling overwhelmed, upset, or otherwise unhappy, she probably needs to adjust her expectations. Not to say she doesn’t set lofty goals and strive to achieve, but especially when it comes to other people, it’s best not to assume. You’ll always be disappointed if you just decide what it is somebody else will or won’t do, and set expectations based on what kind of person you think they should be.
Apparently I don’t meet her expectations regularly, and those expectations are therefore a source of frustration. My wife’s an amazing lady though, and has gotten good at not expecting or assuming, but instead just encouraging and supporting. She doesn’t set expectations for me, she just does her best to help me be the kind of husband and father she’d like me to be. And (don’t tell her I said this) it might be working.
Dustin over at Modern Mormon Men wrote a great article on this recently, pointing out how we assume things about other people all the time. He spells out how it leads to frustration, poor leadership, and unhappy relationships:
[Not assuming] is the key to successfully working with all people in every situation on planet Earth (and likely beyond), from leading a work group to managing a marriage to navigating the holidays. Don’t make assumptions! When you assume someone understands something, you are setting yourself up for failure. And yet this happens all too often and is really probably the root of most of the dysfunction we experience.
He follows up with some great tips to avoid assumptions and the disappointment that follows:
…be direct! Be explicit. If you think there may be a chance that the other person doesn’t understand, take the time to ask questions, listen to the responses, and set the expectation.
To demonstrate how his wife applies this in their marriage, he says the following (and it sounds a lot like my wife and I):
My wife commented recently that this has been her key to being a great spouse (and she is a fantastic one!). She doesn’t assume. She learned early in our marriage that I am a simple creature who is generally more than willing to help out where needed but that I may sometimes be oblivious to her needs or to tasks that need to be done. So she simply asks. She expresses herself. And, as a result, she gets what she needs when she needs it. I’ve even become more in tune with her and can sometimes head off a request before it comes, all as a result of her being explicit and asking for what she needs.
Finally, Dustin tells the following great example of how expectations get in the way, simply because a boyfriend was never trained in the ways of the gentleman:
My wife’s sister called her several days ago from college complaining that her boyfriend didn’t offer to walk her to her car. Apparently the story went something like this: They were studying at the library and he was getting ready to leave. She asked if he wanted her to walk with him to his car. He, of course, said yes. Really, she was baiting him to offer to walk with her to her car but he didn’t pick up on her hints. They got to his car, said goodnight, and he drove off. She was left standing there, disappointed that he didn’t say, “You know what? Why don’t I walk you to your car instead.” My wife then revealed to her the secret to success in relationships: people are simple. Ask for what you need and watch them rise to [the occasion].
Read the full article “Ass-U-Me Nothing” at Modern Mormon Men.
How will you apply this in your relationships, calling, and job?