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Dec 09

What are your Expectations about Conflict?

Do you have unrealistic expectations ….. or realistic expectations when it comes to Conflict Resolution?

As we begin this series on what is Healthy Resolution, our Expectations about conflict come high on the list. We all have expectations whether we realise it or not. Nowhere are these expectations more serious and complex than in the relationship with others.

Expectations can be a major source of stress in a work environment, in social and relationship issues. Emotional distress, conflicts, communication breakdowns, misunderstandings, distrust all develop from faulty expectations.

Many times, these expectations can be untrue or even unrealistic.

Other times, expectations can catch us off guard, as we are mostly unaware that they are there – guiding our thinking and what … we expect. Often we can catch our expectations peeping out when we use words like “People should be ….” Or “My boss should be ….”. However, most of these expectations are so ingrained in us that they are hidden from our conscious thinking.

If our expectations of others – or of ourselves – are set too high, then we find disappointment, and failure around us. This results in annoyance, frustration and anger that others don’t live up to what we think they ‘should be’.

I am sure you can see how this fits into our theme about expectations when it comes to conflict resolution. Unrealistic expectations – that life and relationships will always be happy and nothing can rock your friendships – could lead to distrust and anger. If we have an unrealistic view of other’s ‘imperfections’ then what a surprise when we wake up to the fact that Prince Charming can fall off his horse.….or that Ms Understanding has lost her mind reading ability.

Part of the goal then must be to become more aware of our unrealistic expectations about our conceptson conflict resolution. This will guarantee a much higher level of success in all relationships. Once we see our underlying views, we can gain more control and make better choices on how we respond when we are misunderstood, left out or faced to confront someone..

Finding your unrealistic thinking can change any relationship. However, it isn’t always such an easy job to do. It’s catching your unconscious views and doing a reality check that can be challenging. It can take some time and determination to examine what you believe is truth.

A very common example of this is our moods and emotions. If you think bad things will happen over and over, you will probably be on the lookout for ‘bad things’. If you believe that life is a mixture and that you can make your way through the ‘bad things’, or have faith that God will bring good out of ‘bad things’, you mental health will be more stable.

In forming a relationship with others, we usually have some expectations about how we think that person feels, thinks or behaves. When these expectations are proved false, there is bound to be some stress and uncertainty.

When people enter into a ‘friendship’, they may have a ‘happily ever after’ expectations that we see in movies or books. Being friends or workmates that get along famously brings its own euphoria and enthusiasm, often maintained by very unreal expectations. Some people expect this understanding each other to overcome all other emotions and as a result, when the reality of life begins to sink in, they might feel lost and a failure. When a friend forgets your birthday or doesn’t keep his word on a work commitment, then problems can multiply.

As the realities of relationships come to the surface, we might be caught off guard. It’s made worse if they have unreal expectations: ‘this disagreement should never happen in a work place!’ If, right from the start, we realise that some conflict is inevitable, then you can more easily flow through the rough spot.

Every person has unconscious ideas about how others should behave to fit their own perfect world. Most of these views can’t be fully explained as they are based on our parent’s conflict skills, other people’s views, the mass media, the moves we see, books we read and so on. When one person begins to behave in a different way that they ‘should’, an all too familiar pattern of negative reactions begin to emerge – disapproval, disappointment, retaliation, resentment and rejection can result…..unless we are wise enough to catch the cycle and talk things through. This takes healthy conflict resolution skills that few of us were taught or seen in action.

So what is the answer for such inevitable conflicts? Learning not to judge each other and allow others to make mistakes certainly helps with unrealistic expectations. People often do things for reasons we may not understand but …believe it or not ….they think there are valid reasons behind their behaviour.

Having realistic expectations – that married people have conflict that can be resolved, that people make mistakes, they seen thing differently that their partner – all can be resolved and talked through. Keeping the ‘good will’ between the partners will keep the positive growth in the marriage. Sometimes this requires help outside yourselves. Other times it’s knowing when to humble yourself and say sorry.

However that doesn’t mean you cannot have boundaries….but this is part of learning healthy conflict resolution skills.

Something to think about? Can you think of 10 expectations you might have had – or still do have about your relationships with others around you that fall into the unrealistic expectations? Honestly, look at the people around you that have good skills in resolving conflict. Ask them – how did that happen? It’s probably because somewhere in their life, they worked on their relationship skills with honestly and open communication.

I hope this article has been of help for you. May you begin to catch the unrealistic expectations long before they cause problems!

Susanne Fengler, Blog Editor



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  1. Martin Holstead

    Interesting post and I hope the beginnings of many more. I did need to learn about not having conflicts with my boss! Great looking blog too.

    1. Susanne

      Hi Martain. I appreciate your comments and encouragements. I trust 2012 will be a good year with your boss too. God’s best, Susanne

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