Leap Year Lesson #35: Make Expectations Clear

Posted: February 4, 2012 in Communication
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One year ago this week I recall being frustrated when the process of getting a license to a local dog park was more cumbersome than I expected. While completing the application was simple enough, it turned out that they wanted a different kind of proof of vaccinations and local dog licensing than I had brought with me. It would have been good to make that clear in the application. I had to leave the store, go dig up what they wanted and return to complete the process.

Today it was time to renew, so I went back again, this time with appropriate paperwork in hand. Only this time they had decided not to take as payment anything except cash or check – neither of which I usually carry with me in the amount needed. So I had to leave the store again and go to an ATM to get the cash. It would’ve been good to let people know that in the email communications ahead of time or on the application itself. But no, they let people come in and then have to come back a second time. Who knows what will be different next year when I renew for 2013?

When I consider how frequently poor communication is the cause for frustration, I am amazed at how it persists and how we seem not to learn from our mistakes. On so many fronts it is possible to fail to clearly communicate expectations. It may be in the workplace where employees are evaluated on criteria not clearly communicated until after the fact. It may be in the context of who does what when in the home. It can occur when legal contracts are either missing or woefully imprecise in their content. It can appear in educational endeavors where evaluation criteria don’t match what is taught or emphasized in the course.

Wherever it happens, it is preventable if the parties involved really try to communicate clearly in advance and throughout some process and not just after unspoken expectations are not met. We’re not mind readers.

Ask clarifying questions. Don’t assume. Get it in writing if you must, but however you do it, follow leap year lesson #35 – Make expectations clear.

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