Connecting IRL: Realistic Expectations
If you are a rule person or a numbers person, this is going to make your day. There is a formula that expresses how to experience satisfaction in your relationships. Here it is:
Satisfaction with Relationships = Reality – Expectations
S = R – E
Let me flesh this out. The higher your expectations are (as they relate to what is actually happening), the less satisfied you will be. The lower your expectations are (compared to reality), the more satisfied you will be. My numbers people are right now calculating how to have zero expectations so that satisfaction is always in the positive. Not so fast! If you have super low expectations, you end up pulling for a real bummer existence. The goal is to have realistic expectations.
Here are some expectations to work toward as we relate in real life:
- Expect differences
If I’ve learned one thing by being a marriage counselor, I’ve learned that people are different. Even when folks have tried their best to pair up with someone that is compatible with them, they inevitably find major differences. We all have different histories, different personalities, and different experiences, different expectations….
When you expect people to be different than you, you won’t be as disappointed when you bump into the differences. Remembering that others think different than you can keep us from becoming offended or put off by conversations where disagreements arise. Expecting difference can also drive us to be curious about each other (see next blog on The Art of Asking Questions). We may have come to a similar conclusion about something, but we probably came to that conclusion from different angles. When we regularly practice shifting our expectations in this way, we can become grateful for the glorious array that humanity brings to our world.
2. Expect misunderstandings
Holy cow – misunderstandings are everywhere! Most of the time, we fly right by the misunderstanding and don’t even realize it happened. But if you were to slow down and paraphrase what you heard someone else say, you would realize how very often we misunderstand each other. (Note: Please don’t paraphrase everything someone else says. That’s annoying.) When I sit with two people in a room and have them paraphrase each other, it is remarkable how we can mis-hear what someone is saying or doing. Not only that, but it’s incredibly frustrating to realize that you were misunderstood or that you didn’t quite get what the other person was intending to communicate. Expecting that misunderstandings happen will help reduce that frustration and move on more quickly.
3. Expect awkwardness
One of the nice things about email and text is that you can take time to consider what you want to say. You can delete what you’ve typed in before sending it. (Maybe more of us should actually do these two things…) When we are in real life, we experience the awkward pauses that naturally occur in relationship. We experience times when we start talking and forget what we were about to say. We spill drinks while talking (this may actually only relate to the Italians among us…). We’re interrupted by an infinite amount of distractions. We say the wrong things. We say things we don’t mean. It’s all so awkward. Relating IRL is not a stock-photo.
It seems like kind of a downer, but keeping realistic expectations about relationships frees us up to enjoy others. Instead of getting mad and pulling back, we let differences, misunderstandings, and awkwardness roll off of us and move on to the next question or next story. Even though relationships can be the source of so much discomfort, they are a huge part of what makes life worth living. Jump in. Enjoy the mess.
Written by Veronica Johnson
December 10, 2021