In this chapter, we will talk about some of the key components around human relationship and how our emotional stance and our belief system can sometimes negatively impact our relationships. Once we define the ownership of managing such relationship, we will discuss how we can use that knowledge to effectively manage others. Non-negotiated expectations (NNE) is a key concept of this book and I would like to dwell upon it at length since I want all my readers to wrap their hands around this concept and completely own it, in its entirety.
The first step in this journey is to realize that we, as a species, are constantly evolving. We never stop that process. To the extent that the better half that we go to sleep with on the same bed is not exactly the same person that gets up the next morning. They may sound the same, smell the same and look the same. But underneath they are different with a new mood, mind and desires. Some of these changes occur, due to the dream state, which now the world over is recognised as a mood altering or mind changing state. Many things happen during the dream state; we explore, discover, practice, learn, grow, experiment, heal, recharge and evolve. In fact, from moment to moment, we change.
Such a change over a period of time gets categorized under what is commonly known as maturity. Someone has also defined maturity as an unfolding journey of self-knowledge.
The second step in this journey or process is to realize that very often we fall into a trap called ‘assumed competence’. This subject is vast and we will discuss this at a summary level in the next chapter.
3.1 Assumed Competence
Many times when someone is assigned a new task, the person assigning the task assumes that the person at the receiving end of the assignment has all the information, and knows exactly what to do with it. And this assumption mainly stems from the fact, since I know what to do, and since this is common sense, the other person should also know it.
In the next chapter, I would like to introduce another component that is important to managing human relationships and understanding how sometimes we metabolize or manage information.
3.2 Emotional Filters
When two individuals are interacting together, multi dimensional things happen because we are multi-dimensional beings. One such process that I would like to talk about is ‘filtering’. We have different sets of filtering process inside each of us, which along with all the things listed in the previous chapters, influence or stimulate our behavior. Before I proceed any further with this concept, I would like to qualify what filtering means in this context. Simplest definition for filtering process revolves around separation. For example: a semi-permeable paper used to separate fine solids from liquid or air.
Our emotional filters are a complex piece of mechanism, capable of entirely two opposite process: separation and amalgamation. While our emotional filter does work as a semi-permeable filter paper, I am intrigued by its capacity to color our thought process. Think of it as a an optical filter, a camera accessory used to affect the final outcome of any image, be it affecting the relative brightness of different colors, taking away ultra violet distortion or adding a starry effect.
In a similar manner, our emotional filters can at times, distort or color the information that we pick up through our five senses, caused by any activating event. Here is the fascinating thing about emotional filters; some we are born with and some like our belief system, we acquire or learn during our life time. What we are born with, we cannot change. What we learn, we can change completely. This is unlike our attitude: we are born with our emotional palette but we are not born with an attitude. We cannot change the fact that we are all emotional beings. But we can change our attitude.
The following case study provides a perfect example of the above in relation to our non-negotiated expectations:
Case Study F:
A couple who have been married for over ten years have the following conversation:
Wife: You know what!!
Husband: What? (asks innocently)
Wife: It is what you didn’t do and the way you did not do it, that really annoyed me.
Husband: I didn’t do anything!!
Wife: Exactly ……
Husband: But, I did nothing …
Wife : Now you are getting it, why I am annoyed……
Husband: What? But I did not even say anything…
Wife: Yes, that is the point…
While many can identify with the above, currently not many can read much into the above conversation. Let me first give you bit of the background and then the current state of affairs that led to such an outburst.
Preamble: Prior to their wedding, the husband courted his wife spiritedly and enthusiastically showering her with gifts, flowers etc. Also during the initial years of their marriage he continued the same tradition by giving her gifts, flowers on occasions like birthday and anniversaries.
Postscript: Now, ten years later he is more worried about the rising cost of sustaining the family, job related issues etc. So much so that on the day of her birthday he is busy since morning and ends the day without even a birthday wish for his wife. His wife has her own expectation how her birthday should be celebrated and how he should still treat her, year on. It is a commitment that she expects based on their earlier relationship though it was never negotiated.
Important point to notice here is her expectations are based on a very large assumption. Since their marriage, her husband has stopped evolving. Earlier on, right out of the gate we had established that we never stop evolving. Which means his life, his likes, dislikes, knowledge about things, all have changed with time. And if we were to analyse these things carefully, we will come to one more shocking observation. Another reason why sometimes our expectations are not met: we are actually not that important to others, as we assume from time to time.
Also on the flip side, all the people that you think are important to you, they are actually not that important to you. You just think they are without realizing one thing, they are all situationally important to you. As a fair example, you are hurrying to your work in the morning with an important meeting lined up. As usual on the way you would be dropping your kids off to school. As you hug them goodbye at the school gates, at that moment they are important, in fact very important to you. As soon as you drive away, its like – they are good, done with, what next. From that point on, it is just a concept. The concept of caring. Simply because the next task completely takes over you and that is center stage now, for you.
And this draws to us one conclusion, we are situationally important to others and vice versa. Why? Simply because it takes too much energy to hold on to this idea or concept of someone being important to us all the time.
Once again, let me revisit our core concept: non-negotiated expectations. To get a better handle on this subject, let us evaluate the following points:
• We all have expectations.
• Who makes up the list of our expectations?
• Who decides if our expectations are met?
Since all of the above comes within the domain or scope of relationship management, it is important for us to define the ownership for any relationship.
3.3 Ownership: Relationship
However bizarre the following thought process may come across to you, stay with me on this one. In any instance of our relationship with another human being (be it a friend, our parents, kids or our co-workers), can anyone else relate with them on our behalf?
Let me use some metaphors or representations to qualify what relate means in this context:
• After over a decade, I am meeting my childhood friend to catch up on good old school days.
In the above equation, can anyone else relate with my friend on my behalf.
• A mother is on her death bed. Somehow her son, who was away in a war zone, makes it to her bedside in time and without speaking a word, reaches out and holds her hand. Emotions and feelings of a life time were relayed in that atomic moment.
Can even the best friend relate for or replace her son?
In any of our relationship with another person, if no one else can relate on our behalf, then it is safe to assume that the management of that relationship has to do more with us than the other person. You may bring up a very valid point, in a relationship between two different people, both have equal ownership. To your point, yes, till we bring up the following component which is an integral part of any working relationship: Expectations.
In any relationship (be it with your significant half, friend, daughter, son…), we all have a set of expectations. They could be small or huge, different for different people. Bottom line, a list of expectation exists and we make up that list. In most of the cases, the other person is not aware of our expectations. He does not even have any access to my list of expectations as we normally do not negotiate our expectations within a relationship.
There is another major road block in this process: Who decides, if our expectations have been met or not in any particular relationship?