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This is but one example of how a neutral event passes through your mental filter and takes on meaning. Two inches of snow is two inches, but it can mean that:
- Your commute will be slow and potentially hazardous (well, it will if you live in an area where the infrequency of the event means that the resources and manpower to handle it just aren't in place.)
- You won't have to break your back shoveling.
- Activities and events won't come to a complete standstill - and this could be either the good news or the bad news for you.
- The kids might not have to make up a snow day, messing up Easter vacation or the post-semester beach trip schedule.
Obviously you're not in the position to influence how much snow is going to fall. Not even Al Roker can be 100% correct. But weather folks, businesses and even parents create expectations that are met - or not. It's not about the 2 inches, but about whether you were preparing for a foot - or nothing - instead.
- If you tell your boss that the report will be ready by 10:00 Tuesday, even if it's not due until noon the boss will expect it at 10:00 as you promised. You set the expectation.
- When you tell the kids that the next time you discover them playing on their tablets under the covers after 9:00 at night you'll confiscate the tablet, you had better follow through if you don't want to risk losing credibility with them.
- If you advertise a product on special in your store and you run out of product at that price you need a backup plan like a rain check so you don't upset your customers.
As for the mental filter, you are going to do what you do and the folks who observe your behavior will interpret it. They will run it past their values and beliefs and compare it to their prior experiences. This is why there is often a difference between intention and impact.
- You don't invite they guy from the other department to the meeting, thinking that you're saving him time. He interprets the exclusion as a personal slight or as an indication of how important you think he is to the company.
- You stand behind an employee, looking over their shoulder at their computer. You think you are participating in their work, but they interpret your behavior as hovering,auditing and controlling.
So what can you do about all of this potential for preventable negative emotional reaction?
- Be conservative when you are setting expectations. When you set the bar for your own performance you had better make sure to soar over it. (The other person might already have their own ingrained expectations, and you can't control those)
- Take note of verbal and nonverbal feedback you receive from other people. This is how you will find out about how they are interpreting your words and/or actions. The communication process is not complete until the information goes both ways and the recipient of the message understands the message that the sender intended.
- Be willing to adapt your behavior based upon knowledge you have about other individuals' expectations, values, etc. if you want to connect effectively with them.