I think we get into trouble in our relationships because we fail to communicate our expectations. Recently, I had an early morning flight. My husband, who was not traveling with me, agreed to drop me off at the airport. He is not a morning person, so consequently doesn’t hop out of bed when I call his name. It occurred to me that morning that I never shared my expectation about how things should go in this situation. I have assumed (and we know what happens when we do that) that when I call his name, he will acknowledge me and get out of bed. He doesn’t. He stays in bed for a few minutes and I feel compelled to call his name again and remind him he needs to get going. The response to me in that situation was, “Have you ever been late and missed your flight?” No, I haven’t. I had to admit we’ve never missed a flight because we didn’t get to the airport on time. Yet, I wonder if I would have saved myself some frustration if I shared my expectations about our morning departure in a conversation the evening before.
We often have a vision about how an event is going to take place, and when we fail to communicate that vision to the other party or to the group, we get upset when it doesn’t play out. Let’s put this in a work context. Let’s say you are the chair of a weekly meeting that is scheduled from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Is it your expectation that everyone is seated at the conference room table ready to go at 8:00 a.m.? Instead, often what happens, is people are getting their coffee or finishing up e-mail at 8:00 a.m. and arrive in the conference room about 8:03 or 8:05 and the meeting gets started about 8:10 a.m., after everyone arrives and is settled. You feel frustrated that most participants were not ready to start at 8:00 a.m., as the invitation announced. The question you need to ask yourself is, “How clear was I that the meeting would start at 8:00 a.m.?” Did I tell participants to arrive a few minutes before 8:00, so the meeting can start on time? Or did I assume that when I sent an electronic meeting invitation and participants responded they would attend, my intention was clear on the start time? When we fail to share our expectations with a co-worker or subordinate, frustration occurs when things don’t happen the way we think they should. The next time you feel frustrated because something didn’t go the way you planned, think about how clearly you communicated. Did you communicate your expectations?
I’d love to hear what happens when you focus on this approach. Post your comments here.