Whether its dog training, relationships, running a business, traveling on vacation, or going to a restaurant, everyone has built in expectations. Disappointment occurs when expectations are not realistic or not clearly communicated. Clarity and communication are critical to experience a desired outcome. Before engaging in a conversation that involves a project, purchase, or relationship, take a moment to be intentional with your expectations.
I had an epiphany last week as I was helping a family with their new puppy. The members of the family were over the moon in love with their puppy. Specifically, an adorable bundle of fluffy fur with seemingly boundless energy. The puppy “zoomed” happily back and forth in their beautifully landscaped yard. The family laughed as they watched this very entertaining moment. The puppy ran in and out of the plants, stopping for a second to dig briefly before bolting over to a toy. He then jumped up and ricocheted off the mom as it continued racing around the yard. This lasted only for a few minutes before the puppy stopped to catch its breath, walked to its water bowl, then plopped on the cool cement for a little “recovery snooze.” “Wow!”, said Mom.
The two kids in the family had been begging for a dog for over a year. Dad had grown up with dogs but had not owned one in his adult life. While Mom had zero experience with dogs. We discussed their expectations. I helped them gain clarity on what successful training and integration of the puppy into their family life would look like. I then asked a question I had not asked before during an initial training consultation. “If your puppy could articulate it’s expectations of you, what do you think it would tell you?”
Everyone got quiet and started to think. The children immediately piped up to share that their puppy would expect them to feed him and play with him. At the same time, I pressed the parents to add to the list. They were not quite sure at first but, as I asked more prompting questions, they expanded the list to include: love the puppy, be patient, walk the puppy, and provide veterinary care. I asked them to imagine how their puppy sees the world and they began to understand that, in order to build a relationship built on trust and mutual respect, they needed to understand that both they and the puppy had expectations.
Now it was my turn…I wanted to share my expectations as their coach and teacher. In order to help them succeed in raising a behaviorally sound and well mannered puppy, I needed to highlight how to be intentional with expectations. I expected them to engage in specific actions and daily habits to achieve success. I needed to make sure not only that they were intentional with their expectations, but had an easy system to implement all that was expected.
What Do You Expect?
- Define your desired outcome succinctly and clearly. Your language should not be vague or ambiguous. Example: “I don’t want my puppy to potty in my home,” would be better stated as: “I expect my puppy to use the side yard out back as it’s potty area. I will implement an effective management and house training strategy to help the puppy succeed.” Another example, “I expect help around the house” could be better stated as “Let’s split up the chores around the house. I will prepare dinner and you clean the dishes. You will put the laundry in the wash and dryer and I will fold and put it away. I will vacuum and you pick up the clutter.”
- Identify the gaps in where things are currently and where you expect them to be. If you are clear on your desired outcome, but are not seeing the results, what needs to change? Identify the steps that will lead to change and communicate them. Ask questions to ensure that what you said and what was heard is congruent.
- Have a system to measure progress, provide feedback, and adjust where necessary. Make sure you can identify milestones to ensure you are headed towards your desired outcome. Use positive reinforcement and focus on what is working- you will get more of it. If you feel things are falling short of your expectations, revisit your initial goals and communication to shift the trajectory and make hitting or exceeding your expectations possible.
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-Author of Fur Covered Wisdom (International #1 Best Selling Book on Amazon)
-Woman of the Year (2017)- Women In the Pet Industry Network
-Top 25 Woman of Influence in the Pet Industry, PetAge Magazine (2015) ccc