Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Talk to me

Some days you're the bug. Some days you're the windshield. Today was a windshield day.

Expectations. We all have them in some form, whether it is of ourselves or of others. They come from so many sources, from so many influences in our lives, beginning when we are tiny, dependent on our parents for food and shelter and emotional nurturing. We're taught how to get what we want partly by watching how others get what THEY want.

Like this: if mom is manipulative and martyristic in order to get what she wants, chances are the kids are going to grow up emulating at least some of her behaviors. If mom works hard, tries to be fair, is honest and ethical, guess what. Some of that is going to rub off too. Even in adulthood we watch how others get promoted or rewarded, and emulate those behaviors -- which can account for the intensely political culture found in most of corporate America. Or, truly, in just about any job situation.

We want to please others in order to be rewarded with approval, with love, with affection, raises, whatever. We need to meet expectations in order to do that. And when it all gets totally FUBAR is when we don't know what those expectations really are, and those who have 'em aren't telling us, won't communicate with us, perhaps don't even really know themselves exactly what they expect.

What we know is that we failed to meet whatever they were, and we're gonna get punished: someone stops speaking, there is a bad performance review, reputations are smeared, relationships deteriorate.

For me, my inner judge holds a big fat hairy session in which I am always, ALWAYS found guilty and wanting.

Okay, at least I recognize it and I'm better at keeping the judge in his chambers than I used to be. (But sometimes he talks really loudly through the door.)

And even then, there's a vague uneasiness that hangs over me, a feeling that there should have been something I could have, should have, would have done better that would have met those unarticulated expectations and made it all better.

In truth, the only person I can fix is me. I don't read minds. If I don't know what someone expects, my chances of success are about as good as being able to compose a symphony by throwing rocks at a piano in a dark room.

Clear, honest, open communication can be hard to listen to sometimes, but it is so far preferable to hidden agendas and disappointment, and all the angst that can bring on. It can take a long time to recover regardless of whether you're the one who didn't get them met or the one who didn't meet them. And if you can't talk about it to figure out what happened, nobody wins. Ever.

Tomorrow starts with a clean windshield again. But I feel pretty spattered up tonight.

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