Part 2 Interview with author Ben Winter| Episode 55

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Deanna Bryant
How do you deal with unmet expectations that even though you are clear and precise, they’re still not being met? What are we to do with that?

Ben Winter
So let me make sure I’m clear on what you’re asking because it sounded like, you know, somebody shared the expectation, but the other person didn’t agree with it. Is that kind of the first part?

Deanna Bryant
Yes. And so how do you keep your peace? How do you handle that anger?

Ben Winter
One, I think the trick there is to understand if you shared your expectation and the other person didn’t buy into it, then you can’t expect your expectation to be met by that person. That’s your first clue, right? They’re like, okay, I shared my expectation. They don’t agree with it. So where do we kind of go from there? And that’s where you have to talk with them. You have to communicate more and say, “Why? Why won’t you agree with this? Like, what’s the block?” I think if you’re willing to have that conversation with the person, you’re going to understand where they’re coming from. And again, you’re going to eventually reach some point of an agreement. And maybe that agreement is they simply will not do what you’re asking of them. And once you know that, then you can decide what’s going to work for you. And maybe it is time to release that relationship. Maybe it’s time to move on and not have them in your life. And sometimes that’s very freeing, and sometimes it’s very scary. You know, if you have that neighbor who never returns things that they borrow, and you set that expectation that I’m not letting you borrow anything else until you bring stuff back, and they never come back. Well, now, you know, that relationship was one-sided, and it’s just not worth having. And you’re probably not gonna get your stuff back. But now you know where that person stands. You can decide, do you keep that person in your life? Or do you move on? I think that’s something that we all struggle with is we have those friends that just don’t serve us. But we keep them for some reason. Maybe we have that friend who all they want to do is go out and drink. And you’re just kind of like, I’m done drinking. I did that in college. I did that in my 20s. I’m just done. I’ll have a glass of wine here and there. I’ll have a beer here and there. But I do not want to get drunk anymore. Does this friend really serve me? Maybe you share that as like, “Hey, I enjoy your company. But I don’t want to get drunk anymore.” It’s like, “Well, tough, I’m going out and getting drunk.” Maybe that friendship doesn’t serve you anymore. Or maybe it wakes them up to realize that maybe they don’t want to drink anymore. And that the only reason they were is that they thought you wanted a drink. Right? So maybe now you’re both in a more adult relationship where you’re like, “No, we don’t have to drink anymore, because we both thought we were doing it for the other person.”

Deanna Bryant
I was listening to a podcast the other day, and a woman said, you know, what’s in it for me? And I thought, well, that’s a question to ask- what’s in it for me? And it’s a question to ask so that we know what is your expectation out of this? And if that’s not met, then what do you do” You accept it as it is and go on or you choose this is either working for me or it’s not I mean, there’s just only two things you can really do. So in your flowchart, you also talk about reasonable expectations. So what to you is a reasonable expectation?

Ben Winter
Yeah, so that one can be very obvious, and it can be very subtle. Like in my whole thing with traffic, is my expectation that everybody drives the same reasonable? Clearly not. I mean, this is one where it’s just clear as day that that’s not a reasonable expectation. Some other things are very subtle about reasonable expectations, it’s in the relationship departments where you think you’re asking something of your partner that you think might be reasonable, but for them, it might be the most difficult thing for them to do. And sometimes, you’re not going to understand that it’s unreasonable until you’ve had that conversation with the person. And maybe they’re so afraid of travel, for some reason. Maybe they had a horrible experience growing up. And so your expectation of travel might be reasonable to some extent, but not understanding your partner and what their hesitation is, could make it an unreasonable expectation that you’re going to travel across the country. You know, as I said, you might be able to get them to agree to like, two hours away. Because of whatever traumatic experience happened in their past, they’re just not comfortable going any further than that when they first start out. So, you know, sometimes it’s too subtle for us to understand until we have that conversation.

Deanna Bryant
I think about newly married couples, you know, they don’t ever expect to get bored with each other. They don’t ever expect to have knockdown, drag-out fights. They don’t expect to ever become disconnected and yet, those things can evolve over time. Like you were talking about the rules change, things change, people change. And it’s like, we always have to update our expectations and make sure they are reasonable for real life, or we’re setting ourselves up to be upset all the time.

Ben Winter
Exactly. And with that being said, you get into a marriage, and you don’t expect anything bad to happen. That’s unreasonable. Like, I don’t know that there’s a married couple out there that hasn’t had a fight at some point. And, you know, there’s plenty of people that say, if you fight with somebody you love, then you still love them. Because if you don’t want to fight, then you’re apathetic and you don’t care anymore. I mean, I was safe to say, at the end of my marriage, we just were like, yeah, we’re done. We just, we don’t want to fight for it anymore, or anything like that. But not that you should have fought to the extreme of throwing fists, like that’s bad, too. But an argument about something shows that you both still care. That you need to argue all the time to show that you care, doesn’t work either. To get into a marriage expecting it to be the most perfect thing you’ve ever experienced in your life is completely unreasonable.

Deanna Bryant
I think about the unreasonable expectations we place on ourselves that cause us to be upset. I have to do everything perfectly, or I can’t make anyone upset with me. You know, all those crazy expectations we have of ourselves. We can’t make mistakes. We can’t screw up. And when we do, we just beat ourselves up instead of realizing those are unrealistic expectations.

Ben Winter
Yeah, that’s absolutely true. And I think one thing to keep in mind with unrealistic expectations ourselves is, we have to know our point A. So you know, a lot of people will wake up one day and say “I just don’t like how I look, I’m going to start exercising every day.” Okay, well, you just set an expectation to exercise every day. But what’s your point A? Have you been exercising five days a week? If you’ve been exercising five days a week, every day is not that far of a stretch. If you’ve never exercised, you’re not going to go from zero to 100 in one step. You’ve got to work your way up to it. If you’ve never run a marathon, and now you expect to run a marathon, guess what? You have a lot of work to do to get to that point. So it’s not reasonable, that next week, you’re going to be able to run a marathon. I think the biggest thing that people need to understand is like you need to know where your point A is before you can set an expectation of yourself. And then make it a reasonable expectation. A lot of goal gurus talk about smart goals, and the R is for reasonable. You have to understand if your goal is reasonable. If you’re making $50,000 a year, are you going to make a million dollars next year? Not likely. But maybe your goal should be to make 60,000, the next year and then 75, the next year, and then maybe 100, and then maybe 150, and then maybe 250, and maybe it’s six or seven years down the road, you’re finally making that million. But you can’t just assume that you’re going from 50,000 to a million unless you’ve been working on this magic widget that everybody’s gonna want and you are a master of marketing. By all means, go from 50 to a million, I will gladly accept. You just have to know where you are to know if it’s a reasonable expectation.

Deanna Bryant
Yes, exactly. Or you just set yourself up to be disappointed and feeling less about yourself in the long run, in a way. So you also talk about regret in the book. How does regret relate to expectations?

Ben Winter
So regret is when you’ve kind of expected yourself to do something, and then you didn’t do it. So you’re kind of upset, but then you also regret not taking whatever action is necessary. A lot of times when people are in their 80s 90s, they’re older, and they’ve asked all these questions. The term regret always comes up with like, I regret not doing things, not trying things, not doing those experiences. And, you know, for me, the regret really comes in maybe I didn’t share enough expectations, or I didn’t set those boundaries with people. And I regret it because I lost out on a lot of peace of mind. Maybe I regret not setting more expectations of myself, making them reasonable expectations so that I could actually achieve the things that I set out to do. Like with the whole resentments, future resentments, or something like that. That’s kind of where this comes into play, where they set an expectation of themselves, and then it didn’t happen. So now they have resentment, they have regret. They’re upset that it just didn’t happen. But I think you can use expectations as a way to mitigate regrets just as easily, where maybe something’s just not happening the way you want it to, you can stop yourself and say, “Okay, I’m starting to recognize that things aren’t going the way I want. And rather than get upset. I’m going to stop it now and say, “Am I clear on what my expectation is? And have I shared it with those that are necessary? Is it reasonable?” Going through that flowchart, but before you reach that upset moment like you’re almost there, but you’re not quite there. Because then maybe you can change it just enough where you actually get what you want, and set that expectation or that boundary with somebody else. And then you don’t have to regret it in the future because you did your part. And I think the biggest thing is if you try something and you fail, are you going to regret not getting what you wanted? Are you going to regret not even trying? I think that’s what a lot of people talk about is like, if you don’t even make the effort, you’re gonna regret it more. Then had you even made the effort and failed miserably. It might be painful at the time for failing miserably. But you know you at least made the effort. And that’s a lot more than a lot of people. In relationships, it’s one of those things where if maybe your relationship is going to get better by sharing your expectations. And more likely than not, it’s going to improve the relationship in some form or fashion, just adding a level of communication to the relationship will make it better. It’ll open up the door of trust in that relationship. It’ll say, not only am I coming to you with my expectations, but I’m opening the door for you to come to me with your expectations. And it’s subtle, but it happens. But then you’re growing together in that relationship. And who’s gonna regret that? I don’t think anybody would regret that. But if you kept it in yourself and never said anything, and then your partner, you know, your old, your gray, they die. And you’d never said that one thing you wanted to, or you never tried that one thing you wanted to, you never

Deanna Bryant
Right. So one of the things I read in a research study about the regrets of the dying was that people did not say what they really felt. And that really ties into this sharing your expectations for clarity, for a better understanding for building trust. And I think the more we understand our spouse’s expectations of us, or their expectations for the relationship, the more likely we’re going to be able to meet each other somewhere they’re in the middle. But when we don’t communicate it, we’re expecting something we haven’t even talked about. So you’re expecting them to show up in a suit when you haven’t even told them, “Hey, this, this event requires a suit,” Then you’re mad about it. S So Ben, we’ve come to the end of our time together, and I have to ask you one question, I’ll give you my answer. And then you can give me yours. What is one expectation you have in an intimate relationship? Here’s mine. I expect my opinions to be honored and respected and not discounted in any way. In other words, we may not agree, but you can’t discount it or try to change my mind or argue with me about it. You have to give me some autonomy. Not that it’s my way or the highway, because I know we have different opinions, we’re coming from different places. But you have to respect my thinking and belief system. So what’s one of yours?

Ben Winter
I think mine is a little broader than that. And it really does come down to communication for me. So I like what you said about your opinions should be heard, I guess validated or understood, at least. They heard and understood whether they’re agreed upon is that’s a subset after the fact. But I truly believe it kind of goes both ways. Not only do I want to be heard and respected and understood, but I also want to hear and understand and respect my partner. So at the end of the day, that really just comes down to communication and being willing to share those things that are very fearful of sharing. In any relationship that I’ve been in, I tell the person, “You can share your deepest darkest desires and fears, and you will not receive judgment. I will not be running away. But you know, if they share, like some really intimate fetish that they want to explore, that’s not going to make me run away. I may have questions, I may not be interested. And that creates communication and then it goes back to coming to some sort of agreement where, okay, maybe you need to go explore that with somebody else and not me or whatever it ends up being, but at least we’re having that conversation, and I can assure that I’m not running away as a result of that. It opens up a door to conversation and I think that just needs to be understood for me.

Deanna Bryant
That’s a good one. That’s one of mine too! Ben, thank you for writing such an important book about a great subject matter. I love that title. What to expect when having expectations. That reminds me of that book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting when I was pregnant. I love it. It’s easy to remember for mamas. But thanks for taking the time to come on the show and share it with my audience. I really appreciate it.

Ben Winter
Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

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