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Broken Promises Are Rarely The Problem

The most common source of conflict and misunderstanding is not broken promises, but broken assumptions.

Here’s an important distinction that will help make this point clear: Expectations versus Agreements.

An expectation is a belief about how someone should react or respond to a particular situation. An agreement is an arrangement between two parties in which each party has promised to fulfill certain expectations.

An expectation is based on the personal feelings, opinions, and experiences of the one who has the expectation. An agreement is based on clear and precise communication between the parties involved in the arrangement.

All agreements are based on expectations, but all expectations are not based on agreements.

Everyone has different expectations. The tricky thing about expectations is that each party tends to think their expectations are the most reasonable ones to have. In fact, we tend to believe so deeply in the reasonableness of our expectations that we often don’t even feel the need to let other people know what we’re expecting of them. As a consequence, when one party fails to meet the expectations of another party, the disappointed party tends to regard the other party as unfair or unreasonable.

The solution is actually quite simple: if your expectations are really important to you, transform them into agreements. Take your desires and translate them into specific requests. If someone agrees to meet your request, then you know what to expect. And if they fail to deliver, you can know for sure that there’s a problem. Whatever you do, however, don’t victimize yourself by holding the world responsible for meeting all of your unvoiced expectations.

If there’s anything that’s reasonable, it’s the recognition that the world doesn’t always behave in accordance with our own ideas about what’s reasonable.

At least that’s the way I see it.




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