Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Cure for Constant Disappointment


I was working with an organization one time and the business owner shared with me that he was struggling with his sales leader.

“He is very good at account maintenance but weak at prospecting (hunting) skills. I really need him to be more aggressive at getting new business. It’s creating a lot of frustration for me.”

“Have you shared this with him?” I asked.

“Yes. Since the day he started.”

“How long has he worked for you?”

“Ten years.” He replied.

“Over the ten years he has been with you, have you ever seen him be a strong prospector?”

“No.”

This sums up the dynamic that plays out in relationships every day. We do it with family, friends, and spouses. We want to see some new behavior in someone...give them the feedback...and every time they don’t change we get frustrated and annoyed.

Now, I am a firm believer that people can change and new behaviors can be implemented. But they are often gradual changes and don’t require a wholesale change in temperament, personality or values:  those things are pretty fixed. So most of the time, what you get is what you get. And there are always those who choose not to change, they are comfortable being comfortable and expect everyone to adjust to them.

I have a friend who is unhappy with her husband. And although he has some good traits, he drinks too much, doesn’t keep a job, prioritizes himself above the family, and is a chronic liar. It has been this way for 20 years. But instead of seeing it for what it is, she wakes up every day thinking, “Today is the day he will be responsible, honest and selfless.” And every day, when he doesn’t do those things she is heartbroken and furious. I love her optimism, but you can see how delusional it is. Instead of seeing him for who he is, she sees him how she desperately wants him to be. And every day he doesn’t live up to it, she hates him for it.

My advice? Lower your expectations. It’s really unfair to expect someone to be a person they have never been and then resent them for it when they aren’t. At some point, you have to accept the person for who they are and the behaviors they are choosing, then decide if you can live with that. Trust me, it usually lowers your stress level to let go of the negative cycle of hoping, judging and continual disappointment. 

And there is one huge upside: if your expectations are low enough, the person just might pleasantly surprise you. 

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