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Best-selling author Dr. Gary Chapman (“5 Love Languages”) recently released a newsletter on the topic of relationships. Specifically, this particular article focused on two correlating elements within any relationship: (1) The expectations you have in the relationship determine (2) how you experience that relationship. Basically, if you have high expectations for a relationship then anything less than excellence will probably be a letdown. Conversely, if you have exceptionally low expectations for a relationship, then pretty much any positive outcome equates to success.

Let’s put a sports analogy to this concept

If you are the quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, very few would argue there are rarely any high expectations on that player or the team in general. Now if you are the quarterback of one of the iconic franchises in football (Cowboys, Packers, Steelers, Niners, Patriots) anything short of a Super Bowl run will be viewed as a lost season (as a Cowboys fan myself, I can validate this viewpoint over the last 25 years).

This leads us to the real question. How can we temper our expectations for all the relationships in which we participate to maximize their outcomes? Here are three thoughts.

Be Realistic

Set goals for your relationships that are reachable. This applies to our organizations as well as for our individual interactions. Break things down into small pieces, knock those off one at a time, and the larger goals can be achieved. “Stretch Goals” are one thing, however completely unattainable goal setting can doom a relationship from the start. Be real with yourself and those you engage with, either personally or professionally.

Get Another Perspective

Playing off our football analogy above, it is obvious that Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones is in denial about the state of the world’s most valuable franchise. I’m relatively certain he doesn’t have anyone to lean on during tough times, to get their feedback, to give him an honest reality check on where things stand. If he does, he just doesn’t listen to them. The better alternative is to surround yourself with smart people who are grounded in reality, ask them what they think, let them talk, and listen. This is especially true when things are not going well (see Dallas Cowboys 1996 to 2020).

Talk Out Loud

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is to discuss your goals with others. Out loud. Research shows that if you verbally articulate what you want to achieve, there is more accountability, both for yourself and those you share your goals with (they will keep you honest). Again, this applies to both personal and professional relationships. Be bold and speak faithfully over the goals you have in mind.

The takeaways….. Don’t be like Jerry. Be real, lean on smarter people than you, listen, and share your vision in the open forum. Do those things and your expectations should be met or exceeded in any relationship you pursue.

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