Expectations vs. Promises

Do you, or the folks around you, sometimes confuse expectations and promises?

Unless you’re living in solitary retreat in a cave (with internet access, of course, so you can read this), I suspect you know what I’m talking about. Think of a specific example. Likely, it will be on the order of “So-and-so said they were going to __________ (send me that document, wash the dishes, stop and get milk on the way home, etc.) and it didn’t happen and now I’m frustrated/angry/hurt/screwed.”

I don’t know about you, but I felt a wave of negative emotions wash over me just typing that. Okay, so inhale. Exhale. Now, what do we do about this mess?

Let’s start by assessing whether there was an actual promise made. That is, in the example you are thinking of, did you:

1. Lay out the details of your request (“One gallon, 2% Lactose-Free Milk) and the conditions of satisfaction (“Any brand, unopened container, not passed use-by date, have to have it before I start baking at 8p”) to the point where everyone involved is really clear?

2. Take stock of the moment, to ensure the other party was actually listening and in a mood where they could both take in and commit to your request?

3. Allow for the possibility of “no” as an answer to your request?

4. Hear the other party say, “I promise to do X by Y“?

In the absence of any of the above, you are most likely dealing with an expectation, not a broken promise. And really, that’s a different beast, isn’t it?

The coaching tip here is straightforward: Invest the time in creating strong, clear promises, whether you’re on the giving or receiving end. A little effort up front can generate big quality of life improvements when coordinating action with others.

About Us

The WYSIWYG Co. is the coaching partnership of Caroline Sugarman and Aaron Sugarman. We are members of the International Coach Federation (ICF), with more than 40 years of combined coaching and consulting experience.

We work with individuals and organizations, through a mix of one-on-one coaching, workshops and group work that builds leadership and communication skills and improves team performance.

We support our work with assessments that generate insight, highlight strengths and areas for development, and help organizations make better hiring decisions.

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