Sometimes I can be a bit of a pain! I get anxious when situations are not as I think they should be. . . yep, I confess, I do like the ducks lined up. Ring any bells? Well, I spend quite a bit of time telling myself that it’s okay for other people do things differently, the sky won’t fall in if some matters aren’t attended to right away, everyone sees the world from a different angle. . . So, in other words, I have to manage my expectations of others and what I think they should or should not do. Now you might be thinking, that’s fair enough, we can’t control other people and yep, I agree. But. . . what happens when we rely on someone else to do something in order for us to do our job, or to finish a task? When we work with others, professionally or in a volunteer capacity or even just a group of friends who do things together, we immediately have expectations about how they will act and behave. When others fail (in my view) to hold up their end of the bargain or to carry out agreed expectations, that’s when the judging, frustration and anger can slip right in.
Expectations vary from person to person. In some situations, such as work or organised groups the expectations are often written or articulated. Of course, we all know that interpretation of written or spoken communication can vary considerably between individuals. And despite the best efforts to have everyone ‘on the same page’ there is usually a bit of a gap between how we all take in information about similar tasks, functions or ideas. Now, this is where I get really worked up! I often can’t believe that when arrangements are made, details agreed upon and confirming emails sent, that some people actually can’t comprehend, or still get the whole thing bum up!
And, whilst I’m having a grizzle, what about the late comers? The people who always arrive late to gatherings and meetings. They saunter happily in (or so it seems) and never notice the irritation or frustration on the faces of others waiting. Some people are such habitual late comers that others expect them to be late and actually accept this about them. . .off the hook for responsibility. . .
Yes, I can feel my blood pressure rising as I write this stuff. Which leads me to the real reason for writing. Self management. For years I have assisted (professionally) people to cope and deal with many issues in their life, both family, individual and work based difficulties. One of the most important notions, I believe, is to be able to manage our own emotions and responses to certain situations. Sometimes this can be easier said than done. I’m a big believer in this because I have to practice it myself.
I like to think of myself as an organised person. I certainly try very hard to follow through when I promise or commit to a task. I know this about myself because I get anxious and worried if I see some impediment to this happening. Guilt is a very good friend/foe for me. In its dysfunctional way my guilt ensures that matters get attended to promptly. I’m not suggesting that anyone should develop dysfunctional guilt but a healthy bit of self-reflection around responsibility isn’t a bad thing to do from time to time.
Many people are super organised because they have to control everything (and sometimes everyone) around them in order to keep their own levels of anxiety to manageable levels. But this way of functioning in the world has its problems. It can drive other people nuts, and it can be self-defeating as well. Having to have all things organised at all times is exhausting both physically and emotionally. This is a good time to practice a bit of self management.
When we self manage we have to turn the focus inward, toward ourselves rather than external, toward the situation or the other person/people. Better to look at own behaviour. For example, self questioning can help. Why am I so worked up about his? How much does it matter if it isn’t as I think it should be? Why am I taking responsibility and getting frustrated when others are obviously not? Just stopping to consider my own response is usually enough for me to feel less responsible and less anxious. Good theory, I can hear you anxiously think but what about the issue at hand? Well, strangely enough the matter will be dealt with (or not) and life will go on. . .the roof won’t fall in and hopefully my blood pressure level will be the beneficiary.
The other thing that I dislike is the way I feel about myself when I become judgemental and critical of others. This happens when I place my expectations (sometimes unreasonable) on others. When I let my need to be organised (or to organise others) dominate, rather than manage my own reactions and expectations, I end up feeling isolated and overwhelmed. However, when I’m able to relax and allow the process or people around me to proceed (flaws and all) without always placing my expectations up front, I rather like the comfortable emotional space that I find myself in. And as for the ducks. . .