Getting comfortable with vulnerability and learning to communicate our “non-negotiables” can lead to stronger relationships – with others and with ourselves.
I can remember all of the unmet expectations that I’ve placed on others and here’s why: They’ve left scars on my heart. But expectations are just that – expectations. Too often, they’re thoughts and strong beliefs that we’ve placed on other people; ideas we’ve made up in our mind, not actual experiences that we’ve had, or requests that we’ve even communicated. And more often than not, these un-communicated expectations lead to feelings of disappointment and resentment.
But the truth is, expectations have been ingrained in our minds since childhood. Many of us were raised to follow a specific path in life, one set by outside influences like our family, peers or society. But these expectations often reflect someone else’s perception of the “correct” life, right? This is the exact problem with expectations: They can hold us up to standards that don’t line up with our own personal values.
With time, our expectations change and we begin to develop our personal life mantras. These inner manuals act as rulebooks and can dictate how we believe others should act, feel, look and even treat us. It’s important to have personal boundaries, to know what we will and will not stand for or accept. In fact, it’s vital. Too often, though, we keep these rulebooks hidden. We assume that others will understand them, without ever attempting to communicate the details of what’s inside.
How can we expect others to play by our rules when they don’t even know them? Go back and think of all of the times your expectations of another person failed you.
You expected your boss to offer you that leadership position, but you never told her that you were ready for the next step. Instead, you hoped your work would just speak for itself.
You were waiting for your significant other to pick up the slack at home, but they didn’t, and now you’re exhausted and angry.
You expected your friend to call and immediately know you were sad, but you never told her you were upset. Instead, you gave her the cold shoulder. After all this time, shouldn’t she be able to read you better than that?
You were waiting for your sibling to apologize for the hurtful and flippant comment they made over family dinner on Sunday. It’s been a full week – you’ve talked to them about upcoming vacation plans and even taken your kids on a play date, but still haven’t even broached the subject of your “heated” conversation.
Could you imagine how these situations would have been different if, instead of expecting others to read your mind, you simply expressed what it was that you were thinking and feeling at the time that you were thinking and feeling it? The outcome may or may not have been different, but if it’s a mutually respectful relationship, the conversation could have led to deeper understanding of one another.
So how do we unburden ourselves from unmet expectations?
We get comfortable with being vulnerable enough to communicate what we are thinking and feeling. If it’s a healthy and otherwise supportive relationship, we forgive the people that we love for hurting us – whether we choose to tell them that they’ve hurt us or not.
Un-communicated expectations are the enemy of personal happiness. If there is something that we truly want – something that’s a real non-negotiable – let’s do ourselves a favor and learn to ask, or even to tell. Let’s learn how to be vulnerable.
What happens from there is up to the other person, but you’ll have honored your personal values and stayed true to yourself in the process.