Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Filling the Expectation Gap

The expectation gap can simply be defined as the gap between what we expect to happen, and what actually occurs. The gap between what we expect to happen and what actually happens is a space we easily fill, often without giving it a second thought. Our minds immediately start racing as soon as an expected outcome doesn’t occur; “What happened?”, “Where are they?”, “What are they doing?”… The list of questions can be endless, and will vary from situation to situation. While this gap naturally occurs when an expected outcome doesn't come to life, the emotions you choose to fill the gap with is really the important thing.

When I lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba, my wonderful husband, some awesome friends, and I attended Oasis Community Church. To this day I don’t know if I’ve been involved in another church that was exactly what I needed the way Oasis was. The messages were easy to understand, practical to apply, and scripture was always backed up with perspective on culture and life in general when it was written thousands of years ago. Context was always given and to this day, that is something I always both appreciate and seek out in a message I am listening to.

During a series on Marriage at Oasis, Dustin (the awesome pastor) had given a message on Expectations. Oh boy, was it a good one! This message stuck with me and is something I wouldn’t say I think about regularly, but when I start to fill my expectation gap with negative thinking, the words which were spoken pop into my head and I snap myself out of it-- I remove the negative thinking and replace it with positive.

Bridget and I at her wedding. Photos by the
always gorgeous Steph Schulz Photography.
One of my closest friends was married this past June and I was honoured to be a bridesmaid and give the ‘Toast to the Bride”. My beautiful bride of a friend and her husband both attend and volunteer at Oasis—the same church I attended when I was living in Winnipeg. When Dustin spoke during the ceremony, his main message was about filling the expectation gap.

I found this to be extremely amazing for a few reasons;
  1. It’s a great message and one I am reminded of as I go about life.
  2. It’s applicable in all relationships from business relationships with co-workers, to relationships with friends, family and especially the marriage relationship.
  3. I had recently chatted with one of my best friends about the very same topic!  
We all have expectations. Even those who say they don’t expect anything are still expecting nothing! When you expect something, it can be quite the alarming experience when your expectation isn’t met. Let’s create an example to help you understand more clearly…

Say your significant other says they are going to be home at a certain time. You clean up the place, make dinner, and are ready and anxiously awaiting their arrival. Their expected arrival time comes and goes and you are left waiting. Perhaps you send a text inquiring for a new ETA and you don’t hear back.

What’s your reaction? How do you fill the gap now left between the expectation and reality?

Often, an immediate reaction is to fill it with something negative:
‘They must be working late and didn’t think of telling me”
“They went out not caring to let me know or invite me”
The list of negative gap fillers can go on and on and get even more negative and disrespectful. Now that you have this negative mindset, when your significant other comes home your mood is sour, your mind is still spinning all these elaborate stories of things that could have happened, and you feel betrayed and alone.

No matter what the real reason of the unmet expectation, your negative mindset is already setting the other person up to fail in your eyes. They can say ‘Sorry I got caught up in the office and my phone died so I couldn’t text you.”, “Crazy traffic today!”, “I gave so-and-so a ride home after work.”  Even though all these responses are completely legitimate reasons, they can be viewed as “yea, whatever” reasons to you, because in your mind, the dish already ran away with the spoon and you’re the fork no one wants feeling left out of the information loop.

What would happen if you filled the same expectation gap with positivity?
“Traffic could be really bad right now”
“Their phone is always dying and they probably just can’t text me to tell me what’s up”
“I’ve been leaving hints about wanting flowers lately, maybe they are out getting me some!” (the last one is how I often fill my gap hehehe). 
Even thinking a simple “I trust my significant other, they love and respect me, I know everything is all good” is enough to leave you feeling positive even though your expectations aren’t being met, and won’t leave you in a bitter mood for when they do arrive home.

Dustin used some funny examples during the ceremony—one was of Bridget perhaps going on a shopping spree and Jay not knowing why. Another was of Jay coming from work late and Bridget not knowing why. Before you assume the negative, expect the positive, and be open to conversation to find out what really happened.

Too often this negative mind-set so easily fills our thoughts, and the positive doesn’t even get a chance to sneak in. When things are weird at work the gap can be filled with thoughts of getting fired or everyone talking about you behind your back; when things don’t go as expected with friendships thoughts of jealousy or envy can creep in; in your closest relationships, those negative thoughts can spread out into every part of your daily living. Who knows, perhaps the other party involved in meeting your expectation had no idea an expectation even existed (which can be common—especially in new relationships!)!

Let’s all vow to fill the expectation gap with the positive. It’s good for you, for your relationships, and you’ll actually feel the difference in your actions, your decisions and your responses. Next time you notice a negative thought creep in when your expectations aren’t met, fill it with the positive and make a note to talk to the other party about your expectations and why they weren’t met.  Communication is so important and will make you realize you probably had no reason to worry and be negative in the first place!

Thanks Pinterest!

When have you filled the expectation gap with negative thoughts? Did you see how the negativity flowed into your interactions and mood for the rest of the day? When have you filled the gap with the positive, and have you felt the difference? Positivity for the win!

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