Discover how to communicate clearly and build lasting relationships.

I’ve always struggled with disappointment from unmet expectations.  I’m still on the journey of learning to accept things I can’t change because I’m hardwired to make things better.  Since I can’t control all the variables that affect my expectations of what  “better” looks like, should I give up hoping for it?

The Difference between Hope and Expectation

Hope is a positive feeling that originates within. It is related to a desire that something might happen.  Expectation is a similar desire but primarily depends on others to be fulfilled.  An example would be hoping someone will attend your party versus expecting her to come and then being upset when she doesn’t.

How to Avoid Disappointment

In her newest book Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown identifies a way to reduce disappointment while remaining hopeful:  examining and expressing our expectations.  When we share the movie playing in our heads about how we want something to go, people have a better chance of meeting our expectations.

I invite you to examine your expectations and share them with others.  Then let go of those expectations and hold onto hope.  As my coach Grace Durfee suggests, “Leave room for something better to happen by not getting too fixed on your desired outcome.”

Asian businessman and young female executive bowing

Whatever your generation, you probably know Aretha Franklin’s famous lyric, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  Find out what it means to me.”

The topic of respect often comes up in my work with teams when we discuss what each person needs to be most productive.  Although everyone agrees conceptually that respect is important, it is essential to find out the specifics.

Why and How

As this Indeed article highlights, respect reduces stress, increases productivity and collaboration, improves employee satisfaction, and creates a fair environment.  Indeed lists these general ways to show respect:

  1. Listen to what everyone has to say
  2. Pay attention to nonverbal communication
  3. Practice transparency
  4. Recognize the strengths and accomplishments of others
  5. Value the time and workloads of others
  6. Delegate meaningful work
  7. Practice common courtesy and politeness
  8. Prevent bias (even implicit bias)
  9. Include everyone in meetings, discussions and celebrations
  10. Consider how others view you and your actions
  11. Help your peers

Customize to Maximize Impact

In addition to the general ways of showing respect, Brené Brown recommends the “paint done” approach:  ask someone to describe what their desired outcome looks, sounds and feels like.  For some people, respect looks like eye contact, sounds like being heard and feels like their perspective matters.  For others, it looks like giving them space, sounds like silence until they are ready to talk and feels like they aren’t being pressured.

How would you describe what respect means to you?

Every single one of my clients has struggled with a difficult relationship – personal, professional or both.  Do you know anyone who hasn’t?  Sometimes we give up because nothing seems to work.  And then…we come back to a place where we decide it’s worth trying again because the relationship is too important.  What can we change in ourselves to achieve a better outcome?

How You Can Reconcile Differences

These steps are essential to reconciling differences and moving forward:

  1. Be clear — about what you want and what you’re willing to do
  2. Be aware — of the boundaries you need to define so you both feel safe
  3. Be brave — make the first move
  4. Be honest — acknowledge your part of what isn’t working
  5. Be open — listen without judgement
  6. Be accountable – do what you say you’ll do
  7. Be imperfect – apologize when you fail and keep trying

Do Your Homework First

Any attempt at reconciliation has a better chance of success if you first spend some time reflecting on each  step.  Picture a flight attendant demonstrating the importance of putting your oxygen mask on before trying to assist someone else.  You’re ready when you can let go of your expectations and the need to be right.  Contact cheryl@csbryan.com to find out how coaching can support you in this process.

In 2015, Archbishop Desmond Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamsala, India to celebrate His Holiness’s 80th birthday and share perspectives on finding joy in the midst of suffering.  The Book of Joy chronicles their conversations and their agreement that our greatest joy comes from doing good for others.

Taking the Focus Off Ourselves

The Dalai Lama pointed out that we cannot survive without other people so we must build trust by showing genuine concern for their well-being.  Research suggests that cultivating joy by taking the focus off our own suffering helps us to be available to others.  In a wonderful circle, the more we turn toward others, the more joy we experience, and the more joy we can bring to others.

Meaningful Ways to Do Good

We are individually and collectively experiencing suffering beyond what most of us could ever have imagined.  I am challenging myself and you to find more meaningful ways to do good, consider the other person’s perspective when we’re feeling sorry for ourselves, and spread joy.  That might be speaking up as an ally for someone who is treated unfairly or listening without judgement to understand opinions different from our own.

As Archbishop Tutu said, “We grow in kindness when our kindness is tested.”

Three weeks ago I lost my dear friend and mentor Cecilia Rose to cancer.  The world isn’t the same without Cecilia but it is a better place because she was here. As a person of deep faith, I have no doubt that she was ready for her new life.

Gifts that Last

I’m remembering many, many generous gifts of Cecilia’s time, her wisdom, her wit and her joy.  She helped me expand my thinking and feeling through Systems Dynamics work, her insightful questions and her ability to listen with empathy.  Cecilia was always in my corner and willing to lovingly challenge me to see other perspectives.

Follow Their Example

Cecilia fought until the end to beat cancer with the same determination she applied to everything in her life. As I considered how best to honor her, I decided that trying to follow her example would be most meaningful.  I will continue to practice what Cecilia taught me and share her gifts with others.

One of the many terms highlighted by the pandemic has been “asynchronous” – referring to learning and/or working at different times and places.  We haven’t had much choice while working from home but my clients are realizing that there can be real challenges to this approach.

Paint the Big Picture

Think about a jigsaw puzzle of an elephant.  If you haven’t seen the picture on the box you wouldn’t know that your piece is the knee.   It is too easy for each person to focus on his or her part of a project and overlook how the pieces fit together.  When the leader paints the big picture of success and everyone’s role in achieving it, the team can work in synch with clear priorities and refresh the picture as the project evolves.

Make the Connection

To nurture connection between team members in an asynchronous environment, I recommend inviting each person to talk about how others are contributing.  Regular live interaction and gratitude are essential to reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Staying connected to the big picture and to each other are two ways to make the best of our asynchronous world.  If you are feeling disconnected, I encourage you to reach out to someone.  They are likely feeling the same way.