Sunday, 4 September 2011

unrealistic expectations

Definition:  what other people expect of your behaviour or actions coupled with a pressure to conform to their desires based on an undefined criteria.

This is a recipe for getting my back up.  I hate having a template of unrealistic expectation placed on me.  I grew up with a bit of a chip on my shoulder as a pastor’s daughter and found that other people had expectations of me that I knew nothing about.  Pastor’s daughters were supposed to be well behaved, good pianists and helpful in the kitchen for example.  When I got into trouble at school once, the teacher said to me, “You should know better than this - you’re a pastor’s daughter!”  I was about 14 at the time and couldn’t articulate how this affected me.

In a work situation, you agree to do a job based on a position description and clearly defined expectations of your role.  You know this up front.  You know what’s expected of you, and you do it willingly.  No problem.  That’s what all the industrial relations laws are about – keeping relationships sweet and understood between employer and employee.  They are about clearly identifying and communicating expectations which are realistic and then the employee agreeing and meeting those expectations.  When it works, all is well.

Expectations – unrealistic or not – happen within relationships too.  Marriages, families, friendships and acquaintances.  When I was involved in a church situation once, I found myself under a dominant leadership person who had high expectations of his ‘followers’.  The problem was, you only ever found out when you didn’t meet those expectations AFTER the event.  He could never seem to communicate what his expectations were BEFOREhand.  So it felt very stressful at times.  It was a terrible way to conduct a community and I found myself striving to meet expectations which were undefined.  This, I believe, was manipulative behaviour on his part.  Intentional or not on his part, that’s the effect it had.  It set people up to fail, messed with their heads and ultimately damaged people’s spirituality.

I have always hated finding myself in a position where someone else places expectations on me which have not been identified and agreed to by both of us first.  This is a recipe for disappointment for both parties.  It sets people and relationships up to fail.  And, it’s manipulative.  It’s sad that relationships suffer and are diminished because of this.  Important relationships too.  I am saddened by the loss of relationship I had with Meyles' rellies years ago because I found myself in conflict with them due to this business of unrealistic expectations.  They expected me to visit them more than I did, but I never knew this until we were already well down the conflict track.  It never got sorted.  We just lost the relationship and all parties involved suffered that loss.

Most people are eager to have good friendships and will offer their love and kindness freely.  But the moment they feel someone has an unspoken agenda or like they haven’t met an unrealistic expectation, they will pull back on that relationship.  Long term healthy relationships must be based on transparent honesty.  And being honest with someone else is first about acknowledging to yourself what your desires and expectations are.  No one’s a mind-reader.  No one will know your desires until you express them in a way they are understood and agreed to.  Anything less will limit the depth and length of relationships at best, and manipulate and damage people and relationships at worst.

What’s your response to this blog?  Any comments?  Do you agree, or feel you’d like to add something?  Please go ahead and comment.

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