I'm pleased to share a distinction that is essential for healthy relationship- and trust-building, as well as for avoiding needless “drama” and unnecessary problems in our interactions with others.
Because we human beings do virtually everything we do in community with others (family, work, civic, social, spiritual, etc.) we are continually making, managing, keeping (and sometimes falling down on) promises.
Understanding this fundamental distinction – and its impact on trust and on our ability to cultivate healthy, enjoyable relationships – is a starting point for lasting improvements in many areas of our lives.
Promises Broken vs. Silent Expectation Unmet
We see with our eyes, but we observe through our distinctions. Distinctions allow us to see what we previously could not or did not see… and to then take actions we did not previously take… leading, of course, to Results we did not previously produce.
Think about it - many of us are indeed seeking to produce these new Results in our lives:
- more peace
- less stress
- and more enjoyable, authentic and mutually-beneficial relationships.
This distinction - that promises broken are very different things than silent expectations unmet - is fundamental and very powerful, in both our professional and personal lives. Not operating with this distinction almost always takes us away from the fulfilling, authentic, enjoyable relationships we say we want.
If you break a promise, the other person has legitimate grounds to make a Responsible Complaint. When we don’t manage our promises, we damage relationships as well as our own public identity. Break enough promises and you will soon find that many people will not want to spend time with you, and many of your relationships will be extremely precarious.
But if you simply don’t fulfill a silent (unspoken) expectation, the other person has no leg to stand on regarding a complaint. We cannot read each other’s minds… in this situation, no promise was broken at all. You just simply didn’t spontaneously do what he or she desired.
In this situation, the other person may certainly make a Request, yes… but not a complaint.
I believe there are many, many people currently walking around "offended" because other people in their lives didn’t spontaneously do what they expected them to do!
This obviously impacts their relationships in a negative way – and it doesn’t have to be this way. The word “expect” comes from a Latin word that means “to wait”. Not a very powerful orientation – waiting. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with expectations…. as long as they’re held as expectations and not as a debt someone has to you!
Do you have clear awareness of this distinction? Do others in your life?
The invitation is to begin making effective requests and clear commitments as the basis for doing everything with others… and to minimize the extent to which you use unspoken assumptions and silent expectations as the basis for how you interact in your personal and professional relationships.