disappointment photoLast week was Valentine’s Day and I hope, at the end of the day, you weren’t disappointed.  I know that some of us are more romantic than others, some of us are not currently in a love relationship, and some of us think Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday; i.e., one created by retailers to bridge the gap between Christmas and Easter. Regardless, Valentine’s Day was everywhere from the stores to the television ads, to the flower sellers on practically every corner.  While it may be avoidable, it’s pretty much inescapable.  And quite likely, a disappointment for many.

Shortly after I graduated from college, I was working in a law office with a married woman who was a few years older than me. The day after every single holiday or gift-giving occasion, she would come to work bitterly disappointed because her husband never did what she wanted him to do. I came to understand that she had expectations and she had hope, but he never rose to the level she expected of him. That co-worker taught me a huge lesson way back when, and that was to communicate my expectations.

This is not rocket science, people. Yet we often neglect that one tiny little detail in our relationships. Why?

I suspect that part of the answer has to do with managing expectations.  It’s a slippery slope, that’s for sure.  Do we set ourselves up for disappointment if our expectations are too high?  Are we devaluing ourselves if we set them too low?  In the two years since I wrote the linked blog about expectations, I’ve learned a thing or two about disappointment.  To be clear, I’ve discovered that setting realistic expectations is only half the battle.  The other half, the more important part, is communicating them to the person toward whom they are directed.  You might not entirely eliminate the disappointment, but you’ve greatly improved your odds.

A handy phrase to memorize in this context is:  “Next time, I would be grateful if . . .”  This phrase has relevance to a vast amount of applications.  To your co-worker:  Next time, I would be grateful if you’d let me know that you’re waiting for a response from a vendor.  To your spouse:  Next time, I would be grateful if you’d tell me when you use the debit card.  To your babysitter:  Next time, I would be grateful if you gave me more warning that you would be out of town.  To your middle-schooler:  Next time, I would be grateful if you told  me in advance that you volunteered me to bake cupcakes.

I think you get the idea.

So, instead of expecting your kid to give you fair warning of the cupcake obligation, why not use your words and tell her exactly what to do next time?  You might avoid a whole lot of disappointment (and a late-night trip to the grocery store).

Would you be willing to share a disappointment story in the comments?  How you handled it and what you might have done differently will also be helpful.