My Fellow Distractoids —
The series on communication continues this week with the crucial topic of expectations and agreements. Understanding expectations and agreements is fundamental to anyone who wants to maintain loving and harmonious relationships.
It’s even more crucial to get if you are one of my fellow Distractoids, because when it comes to agreements and expectations, ADHD is very much in play. (I will have more to say about this in my next post.)
If there is chronic anger, bitterness, disappointment, and grievance in your relationship, there’s a good chance the problems can be traced back to expectations.
Expectations are toxic and even cowardly. Let’s take a closer look.
— When I expect someone to do something, I am setting myself up for disappointment. Yes, it is possible that the person might exceed my expectations, in which case presumably I would be impressed. But more likely the person will meet my expectations, about which I will feel neutral or blah. Or, they will not meet my expectations in which case I will be disappointed and angry.
— When I expect someone to do something, I am being cowardly and not taking responsibility. Why, because I am making my happiness contingent on someone else’s actions. Therefore, I am making that person responsible for my happiness. That conveniently allows me to blame the other person for my disappointment and unhappiness when it occurs. I’m saying to the other person that it’s your fault you didn’t do what I expected you to do and that’s why I don’t feel the feelings I expect to feel. (The truth: I am responsible for my own happiness and feelings, one hundred per cent.)
— When I expect someone to do something, I am making it much less likely that they will do it and almost impossible for them to happily comply. When someone tells you that they “expect” you to do this or that, how does it feel? Do you want to submit or rebel? Those are the choices, because implicit in expectation is a subtle power play: “You do what I say (expect) or there will be consequences for you to pay.” It’s human nature to resist expectations, especially if you have ADHD. Who the hell are you to put your expectations on me???
In summary, expectations are cowardly, coercive, blame-shifting, and controlling. They lead to disappointment, anger, blame and negative judgment. They are one-sided. They are counter-productive.
What makes expectations even more destructive is that they often times are unspoken or poorly communicated so that it’s not even clear how the disappointment and anger arose.
So what do we do?
Replace expectations (spoken and unspoken) with agreements. Let’s look at how agreements differ from expectations.
— Agreements are collaborative. By definition both parties buy in. That means both parties have a say in what happens.
— Agreements involve focused communication and mutual understanding. Therefore they tend to be clearer and better constructed.
— People generally like to keep their word if they have given it freely. They like to keep their agreements. Agreements feel good and are productive.
— Agreements are creative.
Do agreements solve all problems? Of course not. But the practice of negotiating and re-negotiating agreements makes for better relationships and better communication.
If an agreement proves hard to keep, or if it is broken, all is not lost. In fact, problems with agreements are great opportunities to learn about ourselves and our relationship. We can examine what values, beliefs, and assumptions went into the agreement and figure out how and where we got off course. Then, make a new and better agreement.
One huge caveat:
ADHD can present serious problems when it comes to agreements, and that’s a very big deal.
In my next post I’ll address how ADHDers struggle with agreements and how this plays out through miscommunication at the ADHD/non-ADHD interface, also know as the DMZ (Distractoid-Muggle Zone).
Until then, best of luck to one and all!