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Balancing Expectations: A Guide to Minimising Disappointment in Interpersonal Relationships

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In a world where interpersonal relationships are both a source of joy and strain, managing expectations can be a game-changer. It’s essential to understand that other people, just like you, are complex beings with their thoughts, emotions, and agendas. By learning to keep your expectations of others in check, you can significantly reduce feelings of disappointment and improve your relationships.

The expectation-reality gap

A crucial first step in managing expectations is to recognize the gap between your expectations and reality. Often, our expectations are fueled by idealisations rather than an accurate assessment of others’ capabilities and intentions. Keep in mind that everyone, including you, has strengths and weaknesses, and expecting someone to always act ideally is unrealistic. Accepting people as they are, instead of how we want them to be, can help bridge this gap.

Check-in with yourself

Before placing expectations on others, do a check-in with yourself. Are your expectations fair? Are they based on your needs or the other person’s capacity? Understanding your motivations behind your expectations can help you in moderating them. For instance, expecting a friend to always be available for you might reflect your need for companionship rather than their ability to provide it.

Open communication

Often, disappointment stems from unexpressed expectations. Open, honest communication is crucial in avoiding misunderstandings. By explicitly sharing your expectations, you give the other person the opportunity to meet them or openly discuss their limitations. Remember, this isn’t about demanding compliance but negotiating a common ground.

Set boundaries

Boundary-setting is another effective strategy for managing expectations. When you define what you’re comfortable with, it can prevent resentment from seeping into your relationships. A crucial aspect of setting boundaries is being assertive about your needs while also respecting the other person’s boundaries. It’s about establishing a mutual understanding that supports the health of the relationship.

Empathy and understanding

A little empathy can go a long way in keeping your expectations in check. When you genuinely understand and respect another person’s perspective, it becomes easier to adjust your expectations. Everyone has their life, problems, and priorities. Hence, they might not always behave in the way you expect them to.

Reframe disappointments

Despite your best efforts, disappointments are an inevitable part of life. Instead of seeing them as failures, view them as opportunities for growth. Every instance of disappointment can serve as a lesson in understanding your own expectations better and fostering more realistic ones in the future.

Practise acceptance

Lastly, embrace the power of acceptance. Accept that people are different and that they will occasionally disappoint you. This isn’t an invitation to tolerate harmful behavior but to accept that everyone has their journey and growth process. When we accept people as they are, our expectations become more aligned with reality, leading to fewer disappointments.

Keeping expectations in check is an ongoing process, one that requires introspection, open communication, and understanding. By taking these steps, you can cultivate healthier relationships and reduce the likelihood of disappointment. Life is a mix of joys, sorrows, successes, and disappointments. By managing our expectations of others, we can navigate this mix with more resilience and grace.


Joan Pemberton is a certified life coach and communication consultant with over a decade of experience in helping individuals and teams foster healthier interpersonal relationships. She is known for her unique blend of empathy, insight, and pragmatic guidance.

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