I find that naming expectations helps me avoid and resolve conflict. An unnamed expectation is an unconscious, unspoken, implicit “should” or “should not” hanging between myself and someone else. I’m not saying expectations are a problem—shared expectations are the essence of culture, and culture is what allows us to relate with one another easily and efficiently.
However, when I and someone I’m involved with have unspoken, unnamed expectations that conflict, conflict often arises. This happens all the time, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Naming and voicing these expectations opens the door to connection and learning.
For example, when conflict arises, I might take a guess about the other person’s expectations and check it out with them: “So you had an expectation that I would . . .” Or, I might name and voice my own expectations: “I think I had an expectation that you would . . .”
After I’ve named an expectation and clarified it with the other person, I might explore whether or not we share that expectation and whether we have any other expectations that might be helpful to clarify (to avoid future misunderstandings).