Trust is a funny thing.
It is the foundation upon which all relationships are built and when we meet people for the first time we tend to freely give them our trust if, for no other reason, we have no cause not to.
The interesting thing about trust is that as freely as it is given the first time, I’m not sure that if that trust is violated, it can ever go back to the same level it was at before.
Another interesting point to consider is that most conflict is caused by expectations not being met. This means that when a person does/does not do what we expect of them, the potential for conflict instantly presents itself.
I experienced this quite alarmingly last week. I had arranged to meet a friend for lunch and we had agreed to meet at the restaurant at 11:45 AM.
I was raised by a mother who was fastidiously punctual and instilled in me the importance of always being on time.
It is been many years since I left my mother’s home to make my own way in the world and yet, to this day, I constantly hear her voice reminding me to be on time and chiding me when I’m not.
So when my friend arrived at the restaurant at approximately 12:15 PM and did neither acknowledge nor apologize for his tardiness I felt some anger starting to rise within me and asked why he was late.
He explained that he been on a phone call with a client that had lasted much longer than he anticipated and didn’t think it would be big deal if he showed up “a little late” for lunch.
Here’s the point: My expectation when scheduling a meeting is that we both show up on time and, if for any reason, one of us is going to be late, they have an obligation to notify the other.
My friend’s expectation is quite different. He is of the view that “things happen” and we get there when we get there.
Had my friend’s expectation matched mine he would have either cut short his call with his client and/or called me to let me know he would be late.
Had my expectation matched his, I would not have been bothered by his lateness.
And so it is with so many of the things that cause unpleasantness, discomfort, anger and even outright rage in our daily interactions with others.
So this would seem to be the perfect time to introduce The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations.
The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations is a hugely proactive step that we can all take that will serve to go a long way in reducing tension with others.
Expectations are not unconditional rules to be met with harsh punishment. They are simply a way of alerting others to our preferences and informing us of theirs.
Setting expectations requires courage yet by doing this we take enormous strides to improve relationships and increase levels of trust in all of our relationships.
And even greater courage is required to share our concerns when agreed-upon expectations are not met. It is in these moments that our true character shines through and determines the level of risk we are willing to endure. For it is in how we handle these events that will determine whether we subject ourselves to a few moments of awkward conversation by pointing out that our expectations were not met or by saying nothing with the full knowledge that we will experience this very same behaviour again in the future.
I have long believed a few moments of discomfort is a small price to pay in order to avoid repeated bouts of anger and frustration.
The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations. It’s really very simple. If we don’t clearly articulate her expectations, we forfeit the right to whine when they are not met.
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
P.S. My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours continues to sell well. Please visit us at http://www.lifesinksorsoars.com and let me know what you think.