Managing External Expectations

Fun fact – Internal and External Expectations was supposed to be one post. But it got really long and I could not figure out what exactly to say about managing external expectations by my deadline to get the weekly essay posted so here we are with Managing External Expectations, Part 2. Use this link to check out the first installment, Managing Internal Expectations.

Clearly I am talking to myself mostly as I try to figure this out. You are getting a front row seat to me trying to figure this out. It might not be pretty.

Giphy comes through again.

Sure I want to just not deal with people, but that is not practical or healthy. Healthy relationships are a component of the Mental Well-being dimension of Sustainable Productivity. Living with loneliness has a greater negative impact to health than living with air pollution, obesity, and excessive drinking (Holt-Lunstad, et al, 2010). 

So here we are needing to learn about managing expectations. The ideal way to do this is to talk about it before whatever the “it” is happens. 

But did you catch the first part? The IDEAL way. This is great when I am spiritually fit and able to communicate this way. The REAL way this happens is a little more chaotic and I usually end up having to clean up a mess after the fact. Yep, more of that Ideal and Real, but this time we are considering the other party that we are interacting with. As wonderful as my husband is, he is not Ideal. He is a quirky, faulted human being that I love dearly. And my kids have undeveloped frontal lobes – its not their fault either. 

That is a roundabout way to saying that shit gets messy sometimes at the homestead. Let me share a simple tool that is currently working for me when it comes to managing external expectations.

The Magic Words

Ok, not those magic words. But something that is working for me right now is to start a tough-for-me conversation with this phrase:

“The story I am telling myself…”

This lightens the tone and avoids any accusation. Here are a few examples:

  • “Here is the story I am telling myself about you handing me my Christmas present still in the Target bag: I am a last minute thought for you since you don’t care enough to wrap the gift – or even stick it in a gift bag.”
  • “Do you have a second for me to share the story I am telling myself about you not emptying the dishwasher? I tell myself that when you know I want it done and you don’t do it, you are disrespecting my authority as a parent and you don’t care about contributing to the house.”

In the context of this discussion about managing expectations, let’s be clear that in both of these situations, exactly zero expectations were shared. I did not tell Bixby that I would like my presents wrapped. He does not care about receiving his gifts wrapped and does not know how to wrap presents. And about that dishwasher – no teenager is looking for chores to do around the house or even thinking that the dishwasher might have a deeper meaning.

But having a common language of, “the story I am telling myself” allows for a Sustainably Productive conversation. It is productive because it does not start with accusations and “aways / never” statements. I am talking about the next layer – what it means to me. It is sustainable because I can continue it lifelong. I feel safe enough to do it over and over – it is based on a loving interaction.

I hope this offers you a tool to use in your relationships. Let me know either way if you try it or if you take a moment to answer the Sustainable You questions that follow.

Sustainable You Questions

  1. After an honest, authentic assessment, do you think you are managing external expectations well?
  2. What would it feel like to user the opener, “The story I am telling myself is…”?

I wonder if this essay would be a good opener for a discussion with your loved one about managing external expectations. If this weekly essay resonated with you, please share it with a friend. I am trying to grow Sustainable Sue and spread the ideas of Sustainable Productivity. The best way to do that is for you to share with someone you know. I am ever grateful.