What do you expect?

I’ve been having some interesting conversations about managing expectations and how making assumptions can lead to all sorts of problems. Most work smart habits are about being very clear about what you want. Clear communication lets everyone know, so that there’s no second guessing.

Everybody wins.

If someone asks you to so something and you say “yes”, they’ll probably expect you to get on with it, and if you don’t they’ll be confused, annoyed, and probably spend more time than they need to chasing you to find out when you will. If you say “yes, but I can’t do it for a couple of weeks”, they have the choice of waiting or getting someone else to do it.

If you put your prices up and don’t tell your regular clients before you present them with an invoice that is more than they expect, be prepared for a backlash, possibly having to make a refund, and maybe even losing a client. On the other hand, if you tell them before they commission work at the new price so that they have a choice, most people accept the price rise without a qualm.

If you don’t want to be taking calls and answering messages out of hours, let everyone know exactly when they can get in touch with you and how. If you aim to answer messages within 24 hours, 2 days, or two weeks, let people know. Ignoring or not acknowledging you’ve even seen a message causes a lot of frustration. (I’m only talking about established relationships here, not cold sales messages or “reaching out”, “circling back”  “touching base” “bumping to the top of your inbox” spam.)

The thing that gets in the way of saying very clearly what we want and setting good boundaries is usually an assumption that we know how other people will react or a fear that we’ll upset them. Neither is helpful and hardly ever accurate.

William Ickes, a leading scholar on how good human beings are predicting what other people are thinking, found that strangers read each other accurately only about 20% of the time and close friends and family are accurate only 35% of the time. The real problem is that people who are terrible at reading other people think they are just as good as those who are more accurate!

The worst thing we can do to people is to make them feel unimportant, to ignore them or make them feel irrelevant, so recognising that they have expectations and managing those expectations in a way that makes them feel understood is a huge advantage in every aspect of life as well as business.

If you come across someone who wants to play power games or thinks they can manipulate your behaviour, clearly saying what you want and having very clear boundaries is the only way to avoid a lot of time wasting and frustration.

Working smart is almost always about having clear intentions and communicating them well so that everyone knows where they stand.

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