Ever get mad at someone because they did something you didn’t expect? Of course you have, we all have. They’re not something we directly think about every day, but expectations are a key component of what drives many peoples’ behavior – including our own – all the time. When we sit down at a nice restaurant, we may expect that the waiter or waitress will be agreeable and helpful, that our food will be served in a reasonable amount of time, and that it will be reasonably welltasting. If those expectations are not met, what follows may be a reaction ranging from disappointment to confusion to even, in extreme cases, anger or a feeling of being personally slighted. In many ways, unmet expectations are one of the most fundamental causes of interpersonal conflict, because our expectations speak directly to how we view and value the world. When someone does not meet our expectations, it can take great maturity and wisdom to not emotionally respond and instigate conflict. Our ability to balance our and others’ expectations is directly related to our ability to prevent conflicts before they even occur, and to understand and resolve them when they do. Especially at work.
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