Did you really think I was going to be able to sustain a blog for that long? I could re-read some of my posts for clarity’s sake, but I am pretty sure I mentioned I’m not a professional writer and so the idea of making my writing public, in the form of a blog, induces fear. I’m sure I wrote somewhere that coming up with ideas would be difficult at best, and I have developed an understanding of the meaning behind the term “writer’s block” through this process. I know I wrote about my need to focus on the process and not the outcome if I was going to be successful at maintaining a blog, and I also am aware that maintain focus on the process only would be challenging. At least I hope I wrote about all of the above. If I did, then I have to ask you, what were you expecting would happen?!
I am inspired to write this post from a bit of self-reflection about my inability to keep my blog maintained and current, and about a consistent theme I come across with clients in therapy: that of setting reasonable expectations with others in our lives.
Expectations are Boundaries
Setting expectations could easily fall under the category of “boundaries” when it comes to interpersonal dynamics. If I am in a relationship with you, whether personally or professionally, it is important for you to know what I can do in our relationship. Of course, for you to know what I am capable of, it is equally important for me to know what I am capable of. I also must have a sense of how to be assertive and secure. Namely, that it is completely okay – some might even say “great” – to recognize, and to convey, that I am incapable of doing something.
When we can tell the other person that we are or are not capable of doing something, we are setting up a reasonable expectation for the other person to have of us. And should they maintain an expectation that we are capable of something we have affirmed that we are not capable of, then they are crossing a boundary that we have created (I could write a lot about the consequences of crossing boundaries but won’t make the mistake of making any promises regarding my writing!)
That was not expecting too much…
So, then I promised something I couldn’t deliver. I thought I could do it. I believed it was a reasonable expectation to set up for the other person, but I misread my own abilities. I wasn’t intentionally trying to mislead by blogging consistently, because some of my writing centered on the challenge of blogging. In that sense I alluded to a struggle, but perhaps if you expected more out of me, my words were not clear enough. I could have said “don’t expect for me to be able to keep this going like bloggers are often able to do.”
I would not fault you for expecting a blog post after January of this year. I wasn’t explicit in saying I would stop writing or take a break. Perhaps you were looking forward to hearing from me and expected that you would do so. I can imagine then my inability to live up to your expectation disappointed you. I can’t blame you. That is exactly what happens when the other person fails to live up to our expectation: we get disappointed.
I would not advocate for setting the bar so low that there are basically no expectations of a person, if you know the person. That last part is key, so I will repeat it: if you know the person. If you do not know the person, or not that well, on what are you able to base your expectation?
Instead, people in our lives give us plenty of information, and sometimes without explicitly doing so (such as my example, when I did not explicitly tell you I wouldn’t post a blog for 9 more months, but in subtle ways alluded to my ability to blog.) We can use what someone gives us, about him or herself, in a diagnostic way. It might take some digging, or might require many bits of information pieced together, but eventually we can learn what a person is likely capable of and can set an expectation accordingly. It will probably lead to less disappointment. There is also a chance for two (maybe more, not that I can see them all right now) unintended consequence: we take each person as their own unique individual with their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and we force ourselves to attune more closely to the other person to understand their capabilities.