Managing Expectations – Part 1

I have noticed that very few relationships in Nigeria last the test of time. Arguably, every relationship has its ups and downs and with mature disposition, the challenging times can easily be handled without serious damage. However, in my view, we often seem to deliberately look for ways to destroy relationships we have built over the years with our own hands. It does not matter which type of relationship you nominate for scrutiny – husband/wife, parent/child, church, work or friendships, we have a way of hitting it off with people quickly and before you can say ‘Jack Robinson’ we sever the relationship.

Obviously, there are different reasons why relationships break down, I have however found that a major reason why we have a rather high incident of problem relationships is because of the unrealistic expectations we place on one another. For example, the general way of thought is that once somebody has a reasonable accommodation and a car, that person MUST be ‘loaded’ and MUST be ready to solve any financial worries we present. This is irrespective of the period of time we have known each other or whether there is any serious tie. We often do not understand that some people may be asset rich and cash poor.

The following are suggestions towards building a successful relationship and keeping it for the long run:

Let all your relationships be based on what you can offer – This, by far, is the most important way to forge a meaningful and successful relationship. Rather than concentrating on what you can get from a relationship, be concerned with what you bring in to that relationship. This way, it is almost impossible to have unmet expectations because you are not expecting anything. Of course, you may benefit from a relationship, but the suggestion here is to let your focus be on what you can offer your friend, family, church or work colleague and not the other way round.

If everyone would follow this approach, we will all develop meaningful, healthy and lasting relationships. It’s simple, if I am not focused on what I can get in a relationship, it will be unnecessary to fake anything or manipulate anyone to get my way. In other words, relationships are real when the focus is on what we bring rather than what we can get.

Be realistic – This is another way of saying do not have unrealistic expectations when it comes to relationship matters. When you set unrealistic expectations, you are setting your friend, spouse, colleague or brethren to fail and at the same time setting yourself up for disappointment. It is pertinent to say that what you think is no big deal may be a very unrealistic expectation to someone else. For example, it is unrealistic to ask a friend to forego their food just because you are hungry. It is unrealistic to expect a friend to fund your daughter’s wedding. It is unrealistic to expect a friend to lend you a substantial amount of money to buy a new car etc.

Give people the opportunity to say ‘No’ – Whenever you need to ask a favour that may inconvenience others; never put them in a difficult situation where they fear your friendship will be jeopardised. The right thing to do therefore when asking for favours is to ask in such a way that the other person will find it easy, if they so choose, to say ‘no’. For example, it is better to say:

Would you be available for me to visit tonight or will you let me know when it will be convenient for you?

With the above question, it is easy for the person to say “let’s try tomorrow or next week as I’m not available tonight”. Unfortunately, some people will announce as a matter of fact:

“I’m on my way to your house and I will see you in 20 minutes”.

They care less if the person they wish to visit is prepared to receive guests and they offer him no room to refuse either.

Remember, people may agree to your manipulations and scheming for a while but they will eventually see the light and refuse the attempt by you to continue to ride them.

Be sincere – Sincerity is the missing tool in most relationships that break down. Check yourself:

  • Are you sincere with friends, families or colleagues in the things you say or do?
  • Do you try to make people have a different opinion of you?
  • Why is this so?

People who are not sincere can not handle those who are, so they always have unrealistic expectations which go unmet. As a result, they are unable to keep lasting relationships.

In my view, there is nothing better than being yourself. No effort is required to be yourself. Keeping a relationship with anyone, even with God demands sincerity, so be sincere. This way, you will find you are able to express yourself easier and your relationships will be far more honest, meaningful and fruitful.

Be appreciative – If you are more interested in giving into a relationship than receiving; if you are realistic about what you expect from people; you will find that it will be easy to be appreciative whenever you are offered anything by anyone. Those who go into relationships with the objective of what they can derive from it will find it difficult to be appreciative as they are usually unrealistic with their expectations. The same goes for those who go into relationships with insincerity. Because they are more interested in what they will get from the relationship, they may even be extraordinarily nice and give more than is necessary for a while. They are therefore unappreciative if they are confronted with a sincere partner who gives without any ulterior motive.

Written by Gbenga Badejo – a Partner at ParkRoyalFinishingSchool, – the leading provider of Etiquette, Ambassador, Business and Life Skills programmes.