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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Essay 10. Uncommunicated Expectations

Of all the irrational and insane conduct on this planet, nothing makes me laugh more than this subject.

Really. As you were growing up and acquiring all of your belief systems-good and bad-how in the world would you expect that the people that you interact with would inherently know what your beliefs and expectations are? Is that remotely possible? Of course not.

One of the greatest sources of conflict on this planet occurs in the workplace. Most of us have worked for people that we liked and people that we didn't like. Managers, because they are human, come with all sorts of beliefs, fears, and resultant controlling behaviors. They have an internal set of instructions that results in ego. Most, if not all, of those fears and needs go uncommunicated as they go about working and living their lives. Your success and happiness in the workplace will to a large degree, depend on your ability to learn what those belief systems are and your willingness to agree to those terms. Some folks, completely absorbed by ego, cannot work for anyone. Often they become business owners and tyrants, holding employees hostage to their non negotiable belief systems. Thus, their uncommunicated expectations.

You won't find those expectations in a job description or a policy manual. Co-workers may tell you more than a boss ever will. You can make some logical assumptions about what may be expected of you. Thus employees acquire a collective belief system of their managers and bosses. Millions of workers understand this and for many, this becomes key to their survival and whether or not they get promoted.

Uncommunicated expectations are simply future resentments. They occur everywhere. We believe that people should behave the way we want or expect. When they don't, we get angry, hostile, frustrated. When a driver rolls through a stop sign, we get angry. When your wife buys her 115th pair of shoes, you are miffed. When a co-worker screws off on the cellphone, your workload increases. When you leave wet towels on the bed, or perhaps even the toilet seat up, your wife gets angry.

As we fail to uncover uncommunicated expectations we suffer the consequences and frustrations of others. We get further mired in the tar pit as we discuss those problems with third parties.

We all have uncommunicated expectations. Expectations in and of themselves are not necessarily bad. They become bad when we don't talk about them with those involved and some negative energy ensues.

We are terrible communicators. Human beings absolutely suck at this. Forgive me, there is simply no better way of putting this. That is my belief which you do not have to agree with.

Years ago, in college, I had a roommate who ate my groceries all the time. He never offered money or replacements. I tried to communicate my expectations and each time I did, he agreed to buy his own and quit eating mine. He never did this. I got tired of talking to him. Eventually, I simply jettisoned the situation by leaving. I did not pay the last month's rent, figuring very nearly that he had consumed an amount of groceries that equaled my half of the rent that month. He was livid. We almost came to blows over the situation. He was entrenched in his belief that the rent was an entirely separate situation than his filching my groceries. I was entrenched in my belief that I was justified in stiffing him. We both handled the situation poorly because we both had belief systems that said the other person was wrong. In examining my role in that situation I understand where I went wrong and it probably began in my selection of roommates. I could have locked my groceries up. I could have paid the rent or communicated that I was prepared not to pay in advance. My ego told me that I was right and I wanted revenge. My roommate, well he'll have to take responsibility for his actions.

This insane idea that our beliefs are the only valid beliefs is key. Our inability to communicate effectively causes this insanity to occur and fester as we get hostile and bitter over the failings of our co-workers, friends, families, and loved ones.

The only way to work through this insanity is by establishing communication and ratcheting down our expectations. We must be willing to communicate about everything with close loved ones. And we cannot ever diminish their expectations. Their beliefs and expectations are very real to them.

It is ok to make goals, just refuse to attach an outcome to them. It works.

Uncommunicated expectations contain a slice of everything we have talked about thus far. Ego, beliefs, acceptance and negative judgments, fear and control, victimology and self pity. Sometimes, this conflict results in actual hatred and revenge. Depression, crimes of passion, suicide.

The cure for all of this? Unconditional love and acceptance. You are not required to engage in any of this insanity. It is always a choice and we want to make better choices, to be happy. Perhaps you enjoy life in that emotional tar pit, if so- by all means you are free to continue living your life and getting angry when uncommunicated expectations of yours go unmet or you ignore those of the people around you.

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