Psychic-ology and the Art of Managing Expectations

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Summary:

Do you expect the people you interact with most often to know what you're thinking? If so, watch out, because you could be setting yourself up for disappointment. It's best not to expect others to know or do things they don't know they're supposed to know or do.

Do you expect the people you interact with most often to know what you're thinking? If so, watch out, because you could be setting yourself up for disappointment. It's best not to expect others to know or do things they don't know they're supposed to know or do.

How'd I get to be so smart? Easy. By repeatedly doing what I'm now urging you not to do. Here's an example. Many years ago, my husband Howard and I headed out on a vacation getaway, with the idea of finding overnight accommodations along the route. As we looked for a place to stay, a roadside sign near the entrance to a motel caught my eye: Sauna.

I love saunas, but rarely get to partake. Howard offered to go in and see what rooms were available. I said, "Fine, if it's OK with you, it's OK with me." That (just so you don't miss it) was my first mistake. I knew he'd know what would appeal to me. That was my second mistake.

A few minutes later, he returned and said he'd checked us in. We unloaded our luggage and went to our room.

Did I say "room"? Roomlet was more like it. This was a room better suited to two peanuts than two people. The bathroom (using this same peanut math) was designed for half-a-peanut. I had assumed that Howard had taken a look at the room before checking in. I was wrong. (Mistake #3).

But cramped quarters alone would have been a minor matter. Upon further examination, I discovered that the mattress was squishy soft. The towels were a tad threadbare. The dresser wobbled. And the carpet ... but never mind.

I was upset, but it was my own doing. I was excited by the prospect of a sauna, and hadn't stated any of my other motel expectations.

Oh well, the sauna would compensate for the other deficiencies. We went to find it. The sign on the door said: Out of order.

That's when I started screaming at Howard for his flawed psychic skills, "You should have known I wouldn't like this place!" No, I didn't really scream. I whispered ... but with ferocious intensity.

Having barely unpacked, we decided to pack up and leave. The manager, seeing the don't-argue-with-me look in my eyes, cancelled the room charge, eager to be rid of us before we scared away guests who felt as we did about tattered towels and cold saunas.

Here's the thing: No matter how well any two individuals or groups know each other, and no matter how in sync they think they are, their views of what's important almost always differ to some extent. Unless they communicate with each other about what's important, conflicts are likely, and sooner rather than later.

The problem in this situation was that I forgot that, and so I didn't specify what was important to me. Furthermore, given that I wouldn't have thought to describe my preferences regarding the room ("big enough for us and our luggage, please"), I'd have more effectively managed my own expectations by taking a look for myself before checking in.

I learned a lesson. I no longer say to anyone, "If it's OK with you, it's OK with me." (Well, that's not true, but I never say it without appreciating the risks of doing so.)

Happily, less than a mile up the road, we found another place. A condo apartment. Kitchen, bedroom, the works. It was beautiful. We both made sure we'd both be happy with it. It was more expensive than the Mushy Mattress Motel, but well

User Comments

6 comments
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Noami, you've just described me in this article. I tend to assume that my boyfriend know what I'm thinking and get extremely cranky when I realised that he doesn't.<br><br>I think most of the time, I was more cranky at myself for not setting the right expectation than at him for not able to read my mind. It's definitely something to keep in mind when we communicate with other people.<br>

December 17, 2009 - 7:57pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Bao, I guess I described you -- and myself -- and no doubt many others. This tendency to expect others to know what we're thinking is a common human foible. I can relate to your comment about being cranky at yourself. When I get annoyed with my husband for not knowing what I was thinking or what I wanted, deep down I know it's myself I'm annoyed with. Most of us, I guess, are a bit deficient as mind readers. ~Naomi

December 18, 2009 - 5:26am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

I can relate to your comment about being cranky at yourself.

January 18, 2010 - 5:13pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Thanks for your comment, Joy. I have a feeling a lot of us can relate to this cranky-at-myself thing. Our first reaction is often to accuse someone else, but if we really think about it, we realize we're actually annoyed with ourselves, not the other person. ~Naomi

January 19, 2010 - 1:42am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Great! The articles so far have been full of great material. Glad to hear the serious will continue. Keep 'em coming!

February 6, 2010 - 7:21pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Thanks so much, Joy. I do intend to keep 'em coming! ~Naomi

February 6, 2010 - 7:21pm

About the author

Naomi Karten's picture Naomi Karten

Naomi Karten is a highly experienced speaker and seminar leader who draws from her psychology and IT backgrounds to help organizations improve customer satisfaction, manage change, and strengthen teamwork. She has delivered seminars and keynotes to more than 100,000 people internationally. Naomi's newest books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Her other books and ebooks include Managing Expectations, Communication Gaps and How to Close Them, and How to Survive, Excel and Advance as an Introvert. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions & Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. She is a regular columnist for StickyMinds.com. When not working, Naomi's passion is skiing deep powder. Contact her at naomi@nkarten.com or via her Web site, www.nkarten.com.

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