Something that almost all people struggle with are forming expectations and having those expectations be unmet. Unmet expectations begin with a lack of communication and an inability to define your needs which can lead to frustration and resentment. Popular ways and places that unmet expectations show up are at work, with loved ones, and with yourself. Let’s dig into those!

At Work

Maybe you thought that this job was going to be one thing, and it turned out to be completely different. Perhaps you were supposed to have more responsibilities than you were told, and now you’re feeling overwhelmed. Maybe you thought your relationship with your boss was going to be easier, but it’s not and you’re feeling unsupported. You may feel blindsided and maybe even lied to. You have two options: you can have a bad attitude or a good one. It’s important to remember that you control how you show up and respond when things don’t go the way you expected or imagined. Here are a couple of tips to help with that:

  • Think about the unspoken expectations that you had for this position and challenge them. Ask yourself: why do I have these expectations? What was actually communicated in the interviews? Do others have similar expectations that I do? Was it a miscommunication? Regardless of what I expected, how do I want to show up at work?
  • Have a meeting with your boss to ensure that you’re clear on what the expectations are. Here are some example questions for your meeting: What is my role/objective? What am I responsible for? What are the expectations for this role? How do I grow in this role? What does success look like? What do appropriate boundaries look like? How can I ask for help in a constructive way?
  • Move forward. Now that you have a clear idea of what the expectations are, you can establish new norms and hit the ground running so that you are truly successful in this role! Remember there is something to be learned in every situation!

Now, let’s move on to some tips and tricks to handle unmet expectations with your friends, family and loved ones.

when your expectations are unmet do these things

With Loved Ones

Expectations are the enemy of healthy relationships, especially when they are unspoken and therefore unmet. It’s easy to say “never have any expectations” – you’d be happier and you would feel less disappointed overall. But not having any expectations is a lofty goal to obtain. So, here are a couple tips on how to best manage your expectations with loved ones:

  • Think about what expectations you actually have for the loved ones in your life. Are these expectations you have realistic and appropriate? If not, think about why you have these lofty expectations. If they are realistic, the next step is to…
  • Express your needs! Unspoken expectations are unfair for everyone involved. They set your loved ones up for failure and will leave all the parties involved hurt. It’s important to communicate the things that you need in a loving and safe way. Make sure that you listen to what the other needs as well! While setting expectations upfront can be helpful, chances are you will get off-beat every now and then. When this happens, it’s time for point 3, getting on the same page.
  • Get on the same page. Have a conversation about what it looks like to have your needs met, and also what grace looks like when they’re not. No one is perfect, but we are trying to figure out how to love each other in the best way possible!

Lastly, there will be times in your life when you have to handle unmet expectations with yourself, and that’s okay – it happens to the best of us, So here’s how to recover when you don’t quite hit the bar.

With Yourself

You say you’re going to do something – finally get in shape, eat right, put yourself out there, etc. – and then it falls flat and you don’t achieve your goal – you feel like you let yourself down. This can lead to feelings of disappointment, guilt, and defeat. The good news is that it doesn’t have to stop there! Here are a couple tips on how to best manage your expectations for yourself:

  • Think about what your true motivation is and connect with that instead. Why do you have these expectations for yourself? Are these internal or external motivators? What do you actually want/need? Why is it important? Connecting with your true motivation is essential and can help you figure out what is actually blocking you.
  • Grace! Give yourself some compassion. Remember that you can’t always be on or ever achieve becoming “perfect”. People make mistakes and fall short, it’s okay! How you rebound is what really matters. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can.
  • Create new norms in a realistic way. If losing weight is your goal, it’s not reasonable to lose 20 pounds overnight! Come up with a sustainable plan that will give you the results you desire and set yourself up for success.  
what to do with unmet expectations

Remember, you are not alone in experiencing or having to handle unmet expectations, almost every person has either had them or let others down by not meeting them. 

“Two things can destroy any relationship: Unrealistic Expectations and Poor Communication.” – Unknown

Hopefully you are now more prepared to manage and establish new realistic expectations, communicate them fully and have a true dialogue, and practice grace for yourself and others if (and when) those expectations are unmet. 

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Brooke McCord

Brooke McCord

Brooke is a Transition and Life Coach with Ama La Vida. She was born in Sonoma, CA, raised near Atlanta, and now calls Seattle home. She enjoys cooking, being outdoors, exploring new places, and spending time with friends and family. Read more about Brooke's story here!