The key to happy relationships is realistic expectations.

Managing expectations is not easy.  It tends to involve a lot of emotional churning from time to time, where you want X but the other person can only deliver Y, and no matter what you do or how you respond, they will never be able to give you X, only Y.  If you’re smart, you accept Y in all its glory, and realize if you need X, you need to find it elsewhere.

Even with my kids, I often have to realize that they are, 99% of the time, giving their best.  Sometimes their best falls short of their goals.  My job is in part, to help them reach their goals and find ways to navigate the path.  I still have to work within the system I’ve got- they are not magically going to become neater, more organized, or anything other than what they are.  But if I give them additional tools or work with them to solve challenges, working with their strengths and leverage what they have to reach the goal, we’re both happier.  I spend less time in that dream land where life would be perfect if everyone would just do it my way, or magically see the wisdom of my point of view.  I like that little perfect world of my own creation, but it suits no one other than me, really.  Reality requires that you work within the parameters fo what’s before you.

Working with humans, adults and kids, means accepting them as they are, not forcing them to change to suit you or the situation around you.  People need to adapt to the circumstances at hand, and that means adapting to those you work with as well as the work you do.  That person one desk over who annoys you probably isn’t going to quit or pass out just because you look at them with a nasty glint.  Maybe trying to work out what it is that bugs you and find a way to either bring it up to that person and negotiate a solution-(Hey, I have a chemical sensitivity- could you go a bit easier on the Axe? or  “When you’re taking a personal call, can you step away from your desk?  It distracts me.”) or find a work around- move your desk, work from home, whatever it may be- will leave you both happier than simply praying for a miracle or wishing evil on your nemesis.

It sometimes takes me a while to get to a place of acceptance.  One friend I work with is fantastic in so many ways, but when it comes to remembering and handling details- it’s just not their strongest suit.  They want to be better at it, but they aren’t wired for it, plain and simple.  I used to try to get them interested, or explain things, trying to make sure they knew everything I thought they needed to know- and the problem was- What I thought they needed to know and what They thought they needed to know were two different things entirely.

Once I accepted the fact that they trusted me with the details implicitly, and just needed the big picture view so we were all on the same page, things are so much better.  I’m not trying to get my friend to be someone else, and they aren’t feeling like their soul is draining every time we have a chat.  It works better, because I’ve got much more realistic expectations about what to expect.  I don’t feel like I have to prove myself and show how much work I’ve done and thought goes into everything- they trust that’s the default mode of how I approach any problem.  I no longer think their lack of interest in detail means they don’t care, it just means they trust me to handle it on their behalf.  I’m good with that.  And now I know I can give them a summary and let them ask any questions, and that serves their purposes better, meaning I’m doing a better job than before, when I was frankly trying too hard to look like I was doing a good job.  The job was good whether I gave short summaries or long, tedious ones- the end product was the same.

The point here is this-  if you can accept people for who they are, for what they bring to the table, you can help them find a place at the table where they’re happy and thrive, and don’t drive anyone else crazy in the process.  When you ask people to do things that don’t play to their strengths, you’re going to get less than the best results, and make everyone pretty frustrated in the process- a whole lot of no fun for everyone involved.  Any relationship is like a family- if you start with acceptance and affection, and don’t overload the plate of obligation and expectation, everyone will get along well.    And if your initial expectations are off, don’t be afraid to adjust them along the way.  Everyone will thank you for it.  Especially  you.