Raising and Lowering Expectations

There are two actions that you can do with expectations in a conflict situation:

Raise them.

Lower them.

Raising expectations (either through pursuing management, resolution, or reconciliation of a conflict) comes with its own set of problems. When expectations are raised, they wind up being discussed. When they are discussed, they can be agreed upon, or disagreed with, but they cannot be ignored.

Which is what happens when expectations are not raised.

Raising expectations also involves heightening the other party’s desires, needs, and wants—or their expectations—and sometimes this can be damaging if you don’t think that you can fulfill unmet expectations that have already been raised.

Or the unmet ones that haven’t been raised.


Lowering expectations (either through downplaying outcomes, ignoring raised expectations, or just not bringing them up in the first place) brings more complications than raising expectations. When expectations are lowered, they wind up being resented as even being in evidence in the first place. When that resentment builds, it can be addressed, ignored, or added to the list of issues to be resolved, reconciled, or managed.

Which is what happens when the conflict is seen less as a process to be experienced and more as an arena where one version of reality will win, and another version must inevitably lose.

Both raising and lowering expectations comes with conflict consequences.

It’s probably a good idea to be strategic about which set of consequences you’d rather address as an antecedent to resolution.

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