Our expectations are crucial to shaping our satisfaction- whether it be with our job, our meal at a restaurant, or with an interaction we have with a coworker or family member. When our expectations are exceeded, we feel great. For instance, if you were expecting an annual bonus of $5,000 and actually received $8,000, you would be ecstatic. However, when our expectations are not met, we are dissatisfied. Using the same example- say you receive a bonus of $8,000 but you were expecting $10,000, now you’re likely upset. Though the amount is the same in both situations, it illustrates what a crucial role expectations play in your satisfaction with a given situation.
Whether you’re running a business, running a household, doing anything really — expectations matter. We need to establish clear expectations with those we work, live, and interact with to ensure that we’re able to manage those relationships and keep things running smoothly. It can be very hard on a relationship when one party feels that their expectations aren’t being met, and it hurts the trust in a relationship, which is ultimately its backbone. Luckily, there are a number of things that you can do to ensure you stay ahead of the ‘Expectation Gap,’ and this video covers those in detail.
- Be clear in your mind about what your expectations are. If you’re not able to articulate your expectations to yourself, how can you expect to explain them to others?
- Identify the drive behind your expectations. What purpose do they serve? Are they rational and logical, or are they rooted in emotion? The more you know about your own expectations and why you have them, the better you’re positioned to ensure they are met.
- Make time to specifically talk about expectations with people you’re interacting with. Whether they’re a coworker, spouse, family member, etc, be sure that you address expectations with each of them.
- Know what types of expectations to work towards for success. Think through what the expected outcomes are, and the timelines needed to reach those. What is everyone’s role or responsibility in meeting a certain expectation? What processes need to be put into place, and what resources are needed?
- Take ownership and responsibility for ensuring that both sides expectations are surfaced in the aforementioned conversation. It’s not enough to discuss your expectations and how they can be met, you need to get that same information from the other person as well. Make sure you listen deeply and ask good questions to ensure that you’re crystal clear on what the other party’s expectations are.
- Be proactive. Managing expectations before the fact rather than after is crucial to preserving a relationship and keeping someone satisfied. For example, imagine you had to have surgery on your knee. You anticipate that you should be healed up and good to go within 6 weeks, at least that’s what you’ve heard. 6 weeks later, you go to your doctor because you’re still in pain, and they tell you that it’s pretty common for recovery to actually take up to 10 weeks. Now, you’re upset and the doctor has harmed the relationship with you by omitting key information and not being proactive. What they should have done is tell you the actual estimated recovery time before you had surgery, or right after, rather than waiting until you complained. This is an example of not being proactive to properly manage expectations.
- Don’t over-promise. This is relevant to dealing with customers, friends, family members, or even your own kids. Over-promising often leads to un-met expectations, which, as mentioned earlier, diminishes trust in a relationship. However, the opposite holds true when it comes to exceeding expectations, which ultimately leave you/the other party feeling extremely satisfied, and it helps to strengthen that relationship.
Expectations can be tricky to manage, because you need to strike a balance between what is realistic and what isn’t doable. By proactively setting expectations that both parties fully understand and taking full ownership of them, you can get ahead of the expectation gap and be sure that you/those you deal with are never left feeling unsatisfied.