Unapologetically Communicating Expectations to Avoid Disappointment


I wanted to dig into another topic that’s intertwined with last week’s blog, and that’s the idea of communicating our expectations to people. Whether it’s familial, romantic, or platonic, every relationship requires balance between both people involved. The ability to express our needs and desires to others also requires an intrinsic amount of vulnerability – and strength. And then that also got me to thinking…

We hear a lot about the importance of setting boundaries, but I would argue we need to start talking about the importance of expectations.  Boundaries are the bare minimum we expect from people, but expectations help others understand what we need beyond that bare minimum. Let’s get real: the word “expectations” has a bad reputation, but the problem with expectations is not the fact that they exist; the problem is when we do not convey those expectations to others. By assuming others know what we need, we can feel unheard, unseen, disappointed, hurt, etc.

But let’s quickly ask ourselves *why* we may not communicate our expectations; *why* we think others should magically know what we need. Could it be because of the immense pressure we feel, often from many different facets of life? Could it be because it’s been ingrained in us for most of our lives to put others’ needs first, and think about ourselves as more of an afterthought? Could it be because asserting what we need is seems almost… anti-feminine? Could it be that we are afraid to ask for what we need for fear of being ignored, or told our needs aren’t important or don’t matter?

One of the unintended discoveries I have made through my overall health journey has been my ability to assert my needs to others, and to express how I am feeling – even when that’s terrifying. I’ve always been confident in my intellectual capabilities. That’s within my control. I can work harder, study harder, etc. What I cannot control is others. I can’t control what they do with my expressed needs; I can’t control what they do with trust; I can’t control what they do with my vulnerability. And I think that lack of control combined with my lack of confidence in so many other areas of who I am resulted in my inability to express myself and my needs to others.

When I strip everything away and just look at the root of it, the brutal truth is I didn’t think I deserved to get what I needed. And I *know* I’m not the only person who has been or is still there – for any number of reasons.

But I need you to know: you deserve it. Just like I did.

Over time, as I gained confidence in who I am and my abilities beyond just the intellectual, it changed the way I was able to interact with people. And here’s what I realized: If we can clearly communicate what we need to others, we are allowing the opportunity to ensure our expectations are both understood *and* feel fair to the other person. This isn’t about throwing unrealistic expectations at others and being upset when they’re not met – it’s about finding middle ground. This combination of boundaries and expectations results in effective communication wherein both people are not just avoiding the unwanted, but getting what they truly need.

And let’s flip that in the reverse – we want to know what our people need, right? We don’t want them to assume we’ll read their minds, to desperately try to guess. We want the opportunity to provide them the support they need in the way they need it, but we can’t do that if we don’t talk about it. Consistently discussing our expectations allows us and others to be the best version of ourselves.

I realized it was unfair of me to expect others to read my mind. I realized I’m doing myself and others a disservice by not adequately communicating how I feel regardless of the response I may receive. Most importantly, I realized it doesn’t make me selfish to assert my needs. It makes me a person of self-awareness; a person of introspection and deep understanding of themselves. And, phew, I will not apologize for that.

I also realized I really want that from other people. I *need* that from other people. Nothing drives me more bonkers than beating around the bush. Don’t make me guess. Don’t leave me making assumptions. Allow me the opportunity to be the kind of person you need in any given situation; that’s what I want to give to others, and I hope to God they can expect the same from me.

So, on the flip side of that, I have committed to being honest with people in my life about meeting their expectations. If I can’t, I don’t feel guilty anymore about saying “no” or expressing discomfort with something. No ulterior motives or hidden agendas.

Can it be painful? Will there be growing pains? Oh yeah. My inner circle has thinned out. But the people I do have in that circle are solid. We are honest with each other, and there for each other in the ways we need when we need them. Relationships ebb and flow. Life ebbs and flows. Our needs – and what we can give to others – will change right along with those ebbs and flows. We have to work to maintain *every* relationship, but if we aren’t doing that from our most authentic place, we’ll probably never be truly happy.

What’s my point in this? Be honest with yourself first, and then honest with others second. What you need matters. And remember: if nothing else, there is solace in rejection rooted in authenticity.

About shauna@reyoutotalhealth.com


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