The danger of silent expectations

It’s so much more powerful to make clear requests of others than it is to hold silent expectations.

If you expect all of your team to speak up for themselves…
but don’t ask them to

or if you expect your friends to remember your birthday…
but don’t tell them how important it is to you

or if you expect your family to invite you round…
but don’t say that to them

or if you expect your partner to put the bins out…
but don’t mention it

or if you expect people to be punctual in meetings with you…
but don’t let them know

If you do any of these, if you say ‘they should just know what I want’, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, resentment, and resignation.

Because silent expectations require other people to be mind readers. They set invisible standards that are almost certain to be missed because of their invisibility. And they cause confusion when others’ good intentions (that just didn’t happen to match your hidden expectations) fail to satisfy you.

Perhaps this is what you intend. Maybe you have expectations rather than asking because it keeps proving that nobody cares as much as you do.

It may feel clunky and awkward, but if you really care about things happening, and if you care about being in relationship in a way that maintains everyone’s dignity, it’s far more skilful to ask, directly for what you want to happen:

“Please, speak up in this meeting. I want to hear what you have to say”
“Please remember my birthday. It really matters to me”
“I’d love to see you more. Would you invite me round more often?”
“Please can you put the bins out?”
“It’s important to me that we start on time. Please be there before 9.”

At least then everyone knows what you wish for. And you give everyone the dignified possibility of saying no, or offering to do something different, both of which are denied when your request is hidden by a silent, invisible expectation.

Photo Credit: derhypnosefrosch via Compfight cc

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