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When High Expectations Leads to Disappointments

signs-416441_1280Expectations 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

Apprentice

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