The Power Of Setting Expectations

When I was 17, my family decided to move us from the city where we grew up to a smaller town right north to the city where we had lived. The house was much bigger, I got upgraded from a small room to my own floor, I got a 1986 Daihatsu car where I was the 7th owner of it, dirty-white colored, automatic, and it could drive up to 30minutes before you had to pour water in it. But still it was my very first car.


Still I didn’t like the transition. At all.

I really liked my tiny older room, it was familiar to me, I had a small 15 inch TV with this VCR embedded in it, and I had my computer where I played Command & Conquer all night (and won : – )), my friends were already used to come by my place after school, it was close to the basketball court where I played, and I loved taking my dog Romeo out next to my building and have a good time, just the two of us.

In reality, it was much better, and was part of growing up. At first, I really disliked it but overtime it made so much sense. My friends loved crashing at the new place that now had room for more than half a person, my dad got this amazing baby grand piano by Yamaha that I played all the time, I could start celebrate my birthday in my own house which became this annual event people were looking for, and funny enough my next door neighbor just joined the army, in charge of recruiting for the unit I ended up joining, spending 7 years there.


I’m far from telling you something you don’t know. Yet still, I bet you that 7 out of 10 times you’ll defend a change coming at you as a first reaction, most of us would.


While some of it may feel obvious, there is one lesson to be taken from the understanding that most people will at first defend a change, and that is  – the power of setting expectations.


When trying to get something done, it’s amazing how important it is to set the grounds for success versus going into it cold-turkey. You may end up pursuing the very same process of getting what you’re trying to get, but the way you went into the process can completely change the outcome. For example:


(1) Version 1 [honesty]: “I know we told you we can fix your house for $10k, however, I have some good news, and bad news. The bad, we will not be able to do everything for $10k as you wanted. The good is that for $11k, we can get most of what you really cared about done”


Client is thinking: well, it is not what i wanted but at least they are honest, and i don’t think it makes sense to break the deal as i do get most of what i wanted for a little extra pay.


(2) Version 2[cold-turkey]: “I know we told you we can fix your house for $10k, however, we now understand that we can do most of it for $11k”


Client is thinking: what the heck, they already told me they can do it for $10k, how can i trust them, i don’t like this last minute change, not doing it.


If we know that people first reaction is to defend changes, even if they are good to them, allowing them to walk into the experience with better expectations is likely to help them consider these changes. Otherwise, they may defend them as a first reaction. 


It’s natural and common to fall short by skipping few steps that can help set us expectations . We all do it because in our mind we already “told the story” so many times; and we forget that the other side is not in our head, hearing about it for the first time. The Power of setting expectations.


Hope that’s helpful, good luck !

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