Everyone around us has expectations for our responses. Most often, those are clearly spelled out prior to an interaction. We are provided with written instructions—and are asked to agree to a variety of expectations—every time we join a club, class, or sports team, and whenever we move (by signing a lease agreement or stack of mortgage paperwork), access new services such as utilities, web sites (including social media), sign up for a credit card or bank account, go to someone for repairs (for appliances, vehicles, etc.), secure new employment, go to a medical or other professional, adopt a pet, or seek a new skill or experience (driving, skiing, running a race, etc.)
When expectations are stated up front, we know the terms for the interaction; we know how to be successful, and we know what will happen if we are unable (or unwilling) to meet those expectations.
Yet it’s interesting to me that in our most important interactions with others—primarily our marriages, parenting relationships, and friendships—we often do not spell out expectations ahead of time. In fact, many of us cannot even articulate our own expectations, nor do we always know what others expect of us. This causes difficulty in many of these relationships. This is especially true when autism or some other “social disability” is involved, because these individuals have difficulty “reading” social cues, and responding effectively.
Next week I’ll share a “plan for success” for helping ourselves and others to define and meet expectations. For now, I challenge you to note this week how many instructions or clearly defined expectations you can find around you. I’m guessing you’ll be surprised at how much of our life—and our ability to be successful-- is governed by others’ expectations!
Laurel Falvo, CFLE
Certified Family Life Educator
Executive Director, The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding