Ever find yourself saying something like, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” whenever something doesn’t go as you planned? You’ve done all of the work, put in extra effort, and felt like there was no other possible outcome than success – but the opposite happens. Pure disappointment and frustration. This feeling leads to resentment, anger, and the wind out of your sails.
It's me, not you
What if I told you that you’re the reason for all of those feelings, not the other party? If say to yourself, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” complete with optional swear word, it’s because you didn’t manage expectations of the potential outcomes.
Spoilers ahead - anything can happen
In the Exactly What to Say community, we talk a lot about intentional thought and raising the gaze ahead of critical conversations. You want to be prepared for what to say and how to lead a conversation to make it excellent and effective. But one thing that is commonly overlooked is preparing yourself for what might happen as a result of these conversations. Spoiler alert, it’s not always good.
This next part is hard. This is a level up in conversational excellence and personal growth, so don’t be discouraged if you fail miserably at first. What I can say as someone who strives to be better at this every day, it pays off when you get it right.
Everything is awesome
Imagine you had that hard, critical conversation you’ve been preparing for and anticipating. It’s a conversation that could really change your life, short or long term. You want to achieve the best possible outcome, so you hope that is what happens. We call this the “Birthday Scenario” – you get everything you want and you ride off into the sunset. This expectation is usually managed pretty well. We don’t buy lottery tickets because we expect to lose, we expect to win it all.
Compromise is the spice of life
But life is gray. Nuance is usually the norm. You need to prepare for the “Better Case Scenario” – one where compromises are made, baby steps are taken, and success is juxtaposed to a weird taste in your mouth that it didn’t go exactly as planned. That’s okay.
It might not work out
But life sometimes sucks, too. You get blindsided with something that comes out of left field and derails all of your effort. Or it’s just a simple, “No, thank you” no matter what you do. This is the “Worst Case Scenario.” You can try to uncover some positives from this after the dust settles, but preparing yourself for the feeling of failure is the way to go.
Prepare for everything
Here’s the hard part – imagine all three of these scenarios and role play how you would imagine yourself feeling for each one of these. Just like in influential conversations, people make decisions twice – once in their mind and once in person. You need to do the same thing with expectations. Visualize how you would feel and react and then, when one of these scenarios plays out, you’ll be better prepared to experience it in real time.
By managing your expectations and preparing yourself for these three scenarios, you’ll be ready to process outcomes and be ready to move forward or, in some cases, move on.