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“Sure!” He said quickly to oblige.
The way I worded the question was something new I was trying for the past several weeks. I am a self-admitted nag and due to Bernard and I’s vastly different ways of managing tasks I found I was nagging him more which was causing conflicts.
Before getting married, I purchased a book written by Ruth E. Hazelwood titled, “The Challenge of being a Wife.” I bought the book on a day when I was having anxiety about failing in my role as a spouse; however, by the time the book arrived, my concerns must have dissipated because I never opened it before our nuptials. Flash forward to a month ago when I was becoming increasingly annoyed with the sound of my voice nagging my husband that I stumbled upon the book and decided to read it. It was eye-opening.
A passage that stood out to me that Hazelwood wrote is:
A wife who thinks her husband can’t do anything without her direction may soon find that he won’t do anything; he is just glad to have you take it all on, and you are left wondering what went wrong.
I recognized immediately after reading this passage that I constantly was giving my husband direction in the form of rhetorical questions without allowing him the opportunity to do things when he felt motivated. I’d say, ” You know the dishwasher needs to be unloaded?” or “The sink needs to be emptied.” I wasn’t confident that he would rise to the challenge without my direction – which his track record implied that he wouldn’t. When he wouldn’t do these tasks in the past, I would get angry, do the tasks myself, and then feel resentful towards him because of it.
I read that passage and felt enlightened. The chapter where that passage resides ends with a list of steps to assist in changing your behavior, so your husband feels more motivated to complete tasks on his own. One step that Hazelwood suggests is, “Be efficient in your areas. If you need his help, don’t demand; just ask, “Will you please…?” in a kind way.” I found I would plea or state what I needed and Bernard would either tune me out or ignore. Hazelwood stresses that husbands will ignore or tune you out because they want to demonstrate they are capable of managing their responsibilities without you. So I began to change how I worded my questions and delegated when I felt overwhelmed by household tasks. Changing from, “Why don’t you empty the dishwasher?” to “Will you please empty the dishwasher?” has made a world of difference in my household.
The last suggestion in Hazelwood’s list is, “Show appreciation.” Hazelwood explains, ” You must make him feel worthwhile and loved in order to motivate and bring out the best in him.” I recognize that just the slight change in how I word or phrase what I am saying to Bernard and then express appreciation when he completes the task has changed how quickly he responds to assisting me. He is more willing and motivated to do so, and our exchanges around completing household tasks have become much more pleasant and much less frustrating.
Husbands and Wives, I challenge you to take a look at how you are speaking to your spouse especially if you notice tension and conflict arise around these exchanges. Perhaps, making a slight change in how you word a question or statement can help improve your relationship.
Have a Great Week,
Abigail R.C. McManus
Guest Blogger/ Host
In my previous post, I discussed when and how to go about ending a friendship. Many of us, I would suspect, if given the option would choose to reconcile our friendship over termination. Therefore, I felt for this week’s post, and in honor of the upcoming ‘Reconciliation Day‘ on April 2, 2017, I would write about how to mend a friendship after there has been a conflict or a prolonged dispute.
Surrounding yourself with good friends is important. An article found on WebMD written by Tom Valeo and Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS explains:
A recent study followed nearly 1,500 older people for ten years. It found that those who had a large network of friends outlived those with fewer friends by more than 20%.
Friends can provide emotional support, make us laugh, and bring out the very best in us. But friendships do come with their set of challenges and just like all other relationships will never be completely devoid of conflict. For that reason, it is important to know how to reconcile a friendship once it has been broken, especially if you want it to last.
How do we make up with our friends?
- Make the first move. After a fight has occurred one of the more difficult tasks is being the first person to wave a white flag and reach out for a peaceful reconciliation. Generally, our pride gets in the way, we say hurtful things to one another when emotions are high, and we do not believe ourselves to be at fault. However, staying silent or being stubborn to concede in any way will only cause more issues. Being the first person to reach out may take some courage, but someone has to do it if you want your friendship to survive.
- Accept Responsibility. One thing I learned while studying for my Master’s in Negotiation and Conflict Management at the University of Baltimore is just like it takes two to tango it takes two to have a conflict. Many of us naturally, point the finger at the other person and absolve ourselves of any foul play because we don’t like thinking of ourselves in a negative light. However, looking at how you contributed to a conflict can assist in reconciliation. For example, maybe you were not as supportive as your friend would have needed, or you made negative comments that were judgmental to your friend’s actions. Acknowledging your contribution, however small, demonstrates it takes two to engage in conflict.
- Use “I” statements. Apologizing will help break down your friend’s defensives and make them more willing to listen and communicate. And, it is still important that you express how your friend made you felt during the conflict. Otherwise, your feelings will go unheard, and resentment could build. If you say, ” You always blow me off to hang out with other people” you are blaming your friend which would put them on the defensive. Instead, you could say, ” I felt hurt the other day when we had plans, and you canceled, and then I saw on Facebook you were with Penny and Mary.” Expressing how their decisions and behavior made you feel will more likely encourage them to see things from your perspective and perhaps make them more willing to apologize.
- Don’t look back. Once you and your friend have hashed out your differences and forgiven one another, leave that conflict in the past. If you continue to bring up old transgressions, your friendship will not be able to strengthen and grow instead it will become immobile.
- Reflect together. Take time to examine what you both could do differently next time a conflict arises. Decide together to approach each other first before jumping to conclusions or listening to gossip. Learning how to manage conflicts better together will strengthen your relationship and ensure its longevity.
Have a Great Week,
Abigail R.C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management
Guest Blogger/ Guest Host
Photo by Patricia M. Porter
My husband and I love to play games with family and friends. One of my favorite games is Big Boggle, a word game, where you have three minutes to find as many words as you can with earning higher points for four or more lettered words. The game is composed of dice with one letter per dice. We shake the box until all of the letters fall into a slot with letters shown in different directions. Each of the player’s view of the game is different depending on where you sit around the table. After the timer goes off, we then compare words crossing off similar words from our list. Words remaining on your list indicate no one else saw your word nor wrote it down. You then score points for being the only person with the word on the list. Responses such as “Wow, I didn’t see that one.” Or “I can’t believe I didn’t see it. I was looking straight at it.” Then, we start another round amazed how each of us sees the words in front of us differently and yet, ironically, we are all viewing the same die. It is mind boggling.
Or, is it? Being a conflict management practitioner for over 22 years, I study many aspects of conflict resolution theory, relational dynamics, and neuroscience. The area of study I enjoy exploring is the field of neuroscience and how our brain can work like a muscle. The brain is an organ, but like most muscles, with focused effort, we can practice and build our critical thinking skills, learn to manage and control our emotions, and even change our thinking thus our perspectives. Like everyone else, I can easily stick with what I know and believe my perspective to be the “right way” of doing things or to adamantly state “that’s how I see it, felt it, and experienced it.” So, how can you challenge yourself, build awareness and even explore a perspective building skill? Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Watch Chris Chabris and Daniel Simmon’s videos. Psychologists and authors of The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us made a series of short and funny video clips to illustrate illusions to our perceptions, how we selectively choose to focus on certain things and dismiss other critical information, and our uncanny ability to not see changes right in front of us.
- Watch the television series Brain Games. This Emmy-nominated television series demonstrates how the brain processes information. These short episodes on National Geographic are fun and boggle the mind. They introduce a concept such as perception, memory, stress, etc. and then demonstrate through visuals and audio how your brain engages. They provide practical strategies to reduce misperceptions and illusions of memory, and so much more.
- Play the word game, Big Boggle. Well, it is a fun game and builds word skills. It challenges you to look at so many angles. What are other games which challenge perspective that you would recommend? Let me know.
- Ask open-ended questions to gain different perspectives and challenge your critical thinking skills. Often disagreements escalate into conflict and even full blown disputes because we get stuck in our perspectives. Taking another perspective leads to undiscovered factual information, understanding another’s experience or emotions and sheds light on a new unseen angle. Asking open-ended questions tells the other person you are genuinely interested in learning. Examples of these types of questions could be
- What light can you shed to help me see this differently?
- How might you help me see the hidden door and walk through it?
- What am I missing that would help me understand your perspective?
Go out and challenge yourself daily. Build that perspective-taking muscle and skill set. Let me know how it goes.
Host and Founder
The Texas Conflict Coach®
Photo credit: woodleywonderworks
When we hear someone say they are, “ending a relationship” we assume this to mean the person is breaking up with their significant other. However, “ending a relationship” could also mean severing ties with a friend. Friendships can be challenging to maintain especially over extended periods of time. Life provides many excuses for a friendship to end: you move far away from one another, you work more, you have more responsibilities just to name a few. But what about those friendships for which you deliberately choose to walk away? When should you end the friendship? How do you end it?
Ending a friendship is not easy, but coming to that decision requires careful consideration, especially if you have been friends for a long time.
When should you end a friendship?
While it is entirely up to you if and when you decide to sever ties with a friend, there are several junctures where the choice to walk away may be obvious.
- You can’t trust them. Your friend has done something to betray you whether it was talking about you behind your back, telling your personal stories, hitting on or becoming romantically involved with your significant other are just some examples of how trust can be broken.
- You feel self-conscious when around them. Your friend consistently puts you down or make snide remarks about your appearance, behavior, or any other aspect that makes you feel bad about yourself.
- You recognize the friendship is one-sided. You’re always the one making an effort to get together or connect. Or, your friend only reaches out to you during times when they need something, but they don’t reciprocate for you. Then you are likely in a one-sided friendship.
- You no longer have anything in common. You grow up, develop different interests, make other friends. It is a part of life.
How do you address this dilemma?
- Make sure it is what you want. Rekindling a friendship after you have explicitly made a point of ending it with your friend will be most difficult, therefore, it is important that you are absolutely sure it is what you want. Think about what you will lose by cutting ties with your friend and if the loss is worth it. Consider whether mutual friends will be impacted by this decision. Be mindful if you are still angry about what has occurred, making rash decisions in the heat of the moment most often never turns out well.
- Silently Part Ways. If you are in a situation where your friend is no longer reaching out, then it may not be necessary to have a face-to-face conversation. It that situation, perhaps it may be better for you to stop making an effort to reach out and connect. Take some time to consider whether silently parting ways will be the best option or if a face-to-face conversation is the better route to take.
- Don’t bring others into it. Meaning, don’t speak poorly or encourage bashing of the friend you are severing ties with in an attempt to gain allies. Involving others friends has the potential to cause damage to more than one friendship.
- Be truthful but not mean. If you decide to end the friendship, it may be best to do so in person so that closure can be had for you both. When speaking to them be truthful in your reasons for cutting ties. The strategy of sugarcoating and dancing around the topic will only make ending the relationship worse. It is important to be descriptive and to stick to how their behaviors have made you feel rather than pointing out their flaws. For example, you might say, ” Danielle, I need to end our friendship because for some time now I feel it has been one-sided. I feel frustrated and annoyed as I only hear from you when you need someone to talk to or when you and your boyfriend are fighting.” Rather than, ” Danielle, I’m done being your friend. You are just using me, and I am sick of it.”
- Set boundaries for moving forward. If you are severing the friendship make sure it is clear to both you and the person you are walking away from what that means, so there is no confusion. For example, “Danielle, moving forward I feel it is best if neither of us makes efforts to explicitly hang out. However, if we happen to run into each other we still remain cordial.”
Have a Good Week,
Abigail R.C. McManus
Guest Blogger/ Host
Many of us are conflict avoiders typically avoid because the idea of engaging in a dispute fills us with anxiety. You don’t know how to manage the conversation once it starts and in your past experiences conflict has often had negative results. After I had begun the Negotiation and Conflict Management program at the University of Baltimore, I learned the technique of preparation before a conflict. Preparing for an uncomfortable conversation before it happens is an easy way to minimize anxiety that many people feel about conflict.
Why is preparation an essential ingredient for a hard conversation to go smoothly?
- Preparing allows you to be mindful of your fears and anxieties. Acknowledging your frame of mind about the conflict can assist you in re-framing it in a more positive light.
- Preparing allows you to format what you want to say and edit to remove any language that could cause the other person to get defensive or take offense.
- Preparing also provides you the opportunity to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and anticipate what their responses might be.
- Preparing allows you to focus on what you need and want from the conversation and have an end goal in mind.
For example, you need to have a talk with your roommate about cleaning. You don’t like conflict and often feel your roommate gets upset quickly, and you end up giving up because you don’t want to ruin the relationship.
The first thing you need to do is sit down and outline what you ultimately need and want from this discussion. You need your roommate to contribute more to the cleaning of the house. You feel that since she has started her new job, you are constantly the one cleaning.
You don’t want your roommate to get upset or feel attacked so the next step would be to write out how you want to approach this conversation. Perhaps you will say something like:
“Sasha, I wanted to speak with you about how to handle the cleaning of the apartment? I feel that since you began your new job, I have been cleaning the house. At first, I didn’t mind because I knew you were adjusting to your new schedule. But, now I feel that it is becoming more difficult for me to manage and I was hoping we could work out a cleaning schedule that is best for both of us?”
Once you have read through what you have written edit any points or possible trigger words that could cause your roommate to become defensive. The next step would be anticipating what your roommate might say. Perhaps she will just apologize profusely and say she didn’t realize she had been slacking. Maybe she will say she doesn’t feel a schedule is necessary everyone should just pick up after themselves and clean when necessary. In both cases, prepare how you would like to respond. If your end goal is to have a cleaning schedule, what can you say to make sure that happens?
Alexander Graham Bell said, ” Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Addressing conflict and managing it successfully just like anything else requires preparing and practice to become more comfortable and reduce anxieties. Give it a try before your next difficult conversation and take note of how different your experience is.
Have a Great Week,
Abigail R.C. McManus
Guest Blogger/ Host
We have all experienced indecisiveness to some degree. Sometimes, the indecisiveness is merely answering the question “What restaurant do you want to go to tonight?” You respond, “I don’t know. You choose.” Or, maybe you are shopping with your spouse for a special gift he wants to purchase for a dear friend, but he cannot make up his mind. So, you go store to store looking for that special something only to go home empty-handed. You are annoyed, but you understand the gift has to resonate and have to mean something.
For many of us, we struggle with making decisions and become habitual procrastinators and often complainers that nothing has changed. My aunt is a great example of this indecisiveness when for years she would grouse about not having a large picture(s) to complete her living room wall. It was a pure white blank canvas. Every time I visited, she would pass by this space and say “I can’t make up my mind about what I want to put there.” My initial thoughts and offer to her were “Let’s go shopping.” My cousin and I would drive her to numerous stores looking at paintings, photographs, structural art pieces but to no avail. She couldn’t make up her mind. Thirty years later that white blank canvas is dulled with age, and the pure white canvas is now yellowed. And, she still complains how she wants to fill the space.
Let’s go a step further. Habitual procrastination and indecisiveness comes from a place of anxiety not knowing what you want or if you know what you want but can’t make the decision it is often from a place of fear. A fear that paralyzes you resulting in you being that flattened squirrel on the road. Every day presents us with opportunities to make small decisions to life-altering decisions. Some of these decisions not only affect you but others around you so of course, it can be scary when the decision has a great impact regardless of whether it is a decision resulting in something positive or negative.
This indecisiveness can lead to growing tensions in relationships, conflict and even protracted disputes. Let’s say you are the boss. For the last two years, you have received complaints from your junior employees and even consulted with Human Resources about the complacency of a long-term employee. This employee doesn’t seem to carry the same workload as the others. She seems to feel entitled given her seniority and longevity in the company. She believes she has paid her dues and has proven her worth so why should she work long hours and go above and beyond. She doesn’t have the need to be a career driver but is at the time of her life where she is coasting down the path to retirement. As the boss, you need to take action but your indecisiveness and anxiety over the last two years has resulted in frustrated employees and a perception of you being a “weak” boss who won’t confront the situation in order to avoid conflict. The employees distrust you, and you can feel the tension and withdrawal. You feel disconnected, and as time progresses with no action on your part, your anxiety grows causing decision paralysis. You are definitely on the road staring at the cars heading straight for you. What will you do?
You can continue to duck and hide and then face the consequences; stand frozen and pray you won’t be flattened, or breathe through the anxiety and take the steps forward to move. Let me close with this quote from Ernest Agyemang Yeboah, a gifted Ghanaian writer, teacher and author of Distinctive Footprints of Life.
“Dare to keep moving when it is a must and there to keep waiting when you have to, but note, you shall always keep waiting if you keep waiting and you shall always keep moving when you keep moving!”
Founder and Host
The Texas Conflict Coach
I have observed people choosing to remain silent when there is a conflict with another. Remaining silent when angered by another’s behavior or words has quickly become one of my pet peeves in others.
Why do some people stay quiet?
There are several reasons why people don’t voice their grievances. One reason is, you don’t want to hurt or anger the other person and fear destroying the relationship. Second, bringing up your discontentment can put you in a vulnerable position if the person were to flip the tables on you. Third, you feel nothing will change if you bring it up, so what is the point.
While to some degree these reasons depending on the situation are understandable. Remaining silent is a maneuver used by those who like to avoid conflict. Conflict avoidance doesn’t resolve the issue, and in many cases, it makes it worse.
Why is it important to speak up?
It is important to speak up for the same reason some choose to stay quiet- not to destroy the relationship. By not voicing your grievance you are allowing resentment and frustration to build. If another person persists in using a particular behavior that you dislike, you may choose to limit your time around that person. By speaking up, and voicing your frustration in a way that is constructive you could enhance the relationship and create a more open dialogue.
It is also important to speak up in situations where you feel hopeless about the outcome because we never know for sure that things won’t change. In those cases, we are basing our beliefs off of assumptions that it doesn’t matter so why bother.
How can you speak up effectively?
Prepare. If you don’t enjoy conflict, then a surefire method to feel more confident is to prepare beforehand. Write down exactly what you would like to say and practice it. When you prepare prior, you can edit and adjust anything that could make the other person defensive.
Use I feel statements. When you are addressing an issue, you have with someone else’s behavior or words describe how what they did or are doing makes you feel. For example, “Lennie, I felt hurt the other day when I overheard you talking to Lucy about me.” By sticking to “I Feel” statements, you are stating how their behavior affected you instead of attacking them personally, which leads me to my next point.
Don’t Blame or Name Call. When a person feels they are under attack, they become defensive, and it makes resolving the conflict more difficult.
When you choose to remain silent, you allow your feelings and needs to go unaddressed. It is my belief that if you decide not to speak up when in conflict with another person then you give up your right to complain about it later.
Have a good week,
Abigail R. C. McManus
I love New Years – it is one of my favorite holidays. The notion of a fresh start for some could be relieving especially if the previous year was particularly challenging. Last year, I wrote a blog reflecting on how I fell short in addressing my personal conflicts in 2015 and how I wanted to improve in those areas in 2016. The three areas where I felt, I needed the most improvement was being more patient with others, thinking before I speak, and being more responsive.
I believe in 2016 I was able to exercise my ability to be more patient with others and responsiveness to conflict. I took on a lot more responsibility at work over the course of this year, and in doing so, I was able to work on managing and resolving conflicts without overreacting or getting stressed out. I forced myself in the moments when I felt most stressed to take deep breaths and persevere, and in the end, I was more thankful for it.
I went through training this year to become a Community Mediator and even completed my first mediation. I found I was challenged to think before I speak and be more aware of my responses and how my words could affect the person with whom I am talking.
While I did make some good strides in 2016 addressing my previous year’s conflict shortcomings, I always feel that I can do better. Therefore, I would like to give my 2017 resolutions for conflict management in my life.
I would like to once again put making choices to respond versus reacting onto my shortcomings list as well as blunt. While I do feel that I have made myself more approachable to others; I feel my tone in response to things going differently than I had planned can be pointed and sometimes harsh.
In 2017, my goal is to challenge myself once again to think before I speak, take deep breaths and be mindful of the emotions and triggers I am feeling while I am feeling them. I also want to work on focusing on the positive aspects of every given situation. I think part of my problem is that when my expectations are not met, I resort to looking at the negative rather than the positive. Therefore, another goal for 2017 is to recognize my expectations and find the silver lining when I am feeling upset about a conflict.
I would also like to add to my resolutions to consciously check assumptions. I found this year that I jumped to conclusions and was judgmental of others before knowing and understanding their perspective. In 2017, I want to approach every situation or person with an open mind. I want to acknowledge my bias and feelings perhaps even saying them out loud to myself or writing them in my journal. I want to make a point of asking more questions and trying to learn more about other’s perspectives rather than arguing my point or disregarding theirs completely.
A new year is what you make of it – taking time to recognize areas where I can grow and develop as well as credit to my accomplishments in my managing of conflicts assists me in becoming the best version of myself that I can be and in life that is my ultimate goal. Take some time to evaluate yourself and set intentional behaviors for the new year, perhaps next year you will find yourself an improved person.
Happy New Year,
Abigail R.C. McManus
Guest Blogger/ Host
One of my favorite artists is singer Carly Simon. I was reintroduced to her again after many years of silence to listen to her new CD, Carly Simon – Songs from the Trees. One of my favorite songs “As Time Goes By” in her CD Coming Around Again has me reflecting on this past year’s relationships that wane or grow. We all have relationships with friends, family, co-workers, business partners, neighbors, and even our clients. How do you intentionally strengthen a relationship or acknowledge the friendship? Or is it time to say goodbye or let go of a relationship in the New Year?
In 2016, we mourned the loss of many musicians like Prince, David Bowie and now, George Michael. Or, the television “moms” like Florence Henderson and Doris Roberts and the “dads” like Alan Thicke. We are all still in shock over the loss of movie stars, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, a beloved mother, and daughter duo not to mention political figure and an American astronaut, John Glenn. Even in our family, we mourn the loss of my brother-in-law, Mark Porter, to a four-year battle with cancer. Relationships are precious, and yet we often take for granted our friendships with little acknowledgment or recognition of the small gifts people bestow on us daily. Small gifts came in many forms like that of laughter when you shared a funny story or a much-needed hug when you got disappointing news or the focus of a listening ear.
As you enter 2017, reflect and commit to being intentional on the small gifts you can provide to strengthen, honor and acknowledge those important relationships in your life. Here are some ideas to consider.
- Give someone your focused and undivided time. Time is invaluable in today’s fast paced world and we don’t want to squander it. Relationships need quality nourishment, and that includes time to engage. This time could mean 30-45 minutes a week you actively listen to a friend who wants to share their news or concerns.
- Say thank you or acknowledge someone. The words “thank you” goes a long way to recognizing and appreciating a relationship. When is the last time you said thank you to a client for their loyalty and referrals? Or, maybe “I appreciate you pitching in with the household chores and taking out the trash without being told.”
- Write a note. I love sticky notes in all shapes and sizes. Simply write a message such as “I appreciate the extra time you spent today to finish this project by the deadline.” Or, “Amazing job!”
- Make a phone call. Today, people mostly communicate via text and other written form primarily through social media. Make a phone call to someone you have not spoken to in a while and show that you care. If you are concerned about time, simply begin with “Hi! Theresa, we haven’t spoken for a long time. I miss you. Do you have about 30 minutes to chat and catch up?”
- Schedule a visit. This visit might take a bit of coordination to put on your calendar, but schedule it, or it won’t get done. Think about the person in your life who could benefit the time with you. You might have an elderly family member in a nursing home who desperately seeks companionship, a neighbor who could use some assistance, or even a long-term client who would appreciate a deeper connection.
Let me add by acknowledging those that make the Texas Conflict Coach® radio program an ongoing community educational outreach program and for recognizing those who will be leaving and joining us in 2017.
First, Zena Zumeta, an internationally-recognized mediator, will leave us after guest hosting for six years. Wow! Time has gone by and so quickly. Zena, a long-time friend, and colleague introduced the idea of being a guest host after I turned the mic over to her to interview me as a guest on the radio show. Since 2011, Zena was a great contributor, idea generator, and interviewer. Zena, we will miss you. We won’t say goodbye for good as we hope she will return for guest appearances and special interviews. From Texas with love and appreciation, Zena.
Secondly, Abigail McManus will join us as a permanent guest host in 2017. Abby has been with the Texas Conflict Coach® family first as a graduate student Intern, then as an Apprentice, and now, as a guest host. Abby is also a contributing blog writer as well as having launched her new blog, Pearls of Prudence. We are excited to see Abby grow and to be part of her career journey.
Dar Allen, voice over artist and actor, has been a fan and supporter of our educational work for years. A colleague and friend, Dar offers his fabulous voice to open and close each radio program episode in the New Year. Thank you, Dar, for being part of our team!
Finally, Tracy Culbreath King and Stephen Kotev continue as our special guest hosts in 2017. We could not continue this program without them, and especially without Shawn Tebbetts, our Executive Assistant, who keeps the wheels oiled and running behind the scenes. We want to extend our thanks and deep appreciation to our guests, from all over the world. They give of themselves and their time to educate our listening audiences. And, to you listeners, new and loyal followers who find value in our podcasts.
Happy New Year Everyone!
Founder and Host
Expectations can often precipitate disappointment; especially if they do not align with another’s plan. People usually come into most situations with expectations as to how things will turn out, or what a person will be like, etc. While I do not completely believe it is a viable option to enter a situation with no expectations at all – I do believe it is important to learn how to manage those perceptions to sidestep a potential conflict.
Recently, I experienced a conflict in expectations with my Mom. In January, my cousin will be getting married in Charleston, South Carolina. Being as we are from Maryland, it requires us to book flights to travel down or otherwise drive. My parents will be flying out of BWI which has direct flights to the Charleston airport. My husband and I have an event going on the day before the wedding and will have to fly out of Washington D.C.’s Reagan airport. Reagan has no direct flights to Charleston’s airport, so we will have a layover which will prolong our arrival, and we will miss the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding which we were planning to attend.
When I informed my mom of this slight change in plans, she became upset and expressed her extreme disappointment as she was looking forward to a long weekend of visiting with us. Now, we would only be able to see them during the day before the wedding and at the celebration itself as our departing flight was leaving very early on Sunday. I was frustrated by her response initially because I felt it was unjust to be upset with me over flight times that I couldn’t control. However, upon further reflection, it occurred to me that my mother’s disappointment was an effect of the expectations she had for that weekend. I am very much like my mom – in the past, I set these expectations up in my mind, and when plans or people fall short I to quote my mom became, “extremely disappointed.”
However, I began to work on handling those situations better so I could better control my emotional responses. Here are some tips and strategies I have used:
Ask yourself, what am I expecting to occur? Just knowing what you are hoping to get out a situation provides more clarity. I like to ask myself this question so I can determine where I might need to be more proactive in making plans.
What do I mean by being more pro-active? I planned my husband’s birthday celebration a couple of weeks ago. Before the event, I determined what I was expecting to occur. I expected us to arrive promptly to the place we were going – which required everyone to get to our house, eat, and leave on time. Therefore, I determined the time of arrival and leaving time and communicated it to all the people attending to ensure we met timing expectations.
Communicate so everyone is on the same page. If you communicate what your expectations are then, everyone will know, and there won’t be any surprises. Back to my mom and I’s situation- I told her we had every intention of going to the rehearsal it just depended on our flights but I didn’t see any issue. Perhaps I shouldn’t have spoken in terms that she could misconstrue as absolutes? Or I should have researched flight times a little more before giving a response, and this could have avoided her setting expectations.
Acknowledge that you will not be able to control everything and everyone. I struggle with this one regularly, because I like being in full control; however, that is unrealistic. I like to say to myself before any event, “what will be will be.” Just saying it to myself helps me to set a realistic tone for the evening and pushes me to enjoy things as they are and not expect any more from the situation.
Expectations are tricky, but learning to manage them as well as other can assist you avoiding conflict and being disappointed.
Abigail R.C. McManus