I heard an interesting quote the other day. “Almost all conflict is a result of violated expectations” (Blaine Lee, author of “The Power Principle: Influence with Honour”) http://www.amazon.com/POWER-PRINCIPLE-INFLUENCE-HONOR/dp/0684846160# I have not yet read his book, so my comments may or may not agree with his, but I liked the quote because it really made me think about this idea from my own context. I do most of my work with leaders and teams, and we talk a great deal about different types of trust. “Violated expectations” would likely undermine trust of reliability as well as trust of intentions. Why do issues come up between people? Often, there is an expectation that the other person will think the same way that we do. Their actions may upset us because we think that they should act the way that we expected them to, which would be influenced by our background. When we “trust” someone to act that way, and we think our trust is violated, that often creates conflict.
The issue this really raises is the importance of communication about expectations. Part of this is the detailed instructions that we may provide for a certain task. However, I think an even deeper piece is important here and that is the greater understanding of the other person and their thoughts and expectations so that we can find a place where our expectations can meet. Everyone arrives with different experiences that may have altered their expectations about what they should be doing. Maybe an employee thinks his boss should help him with a task whereas the manager thinks the employee should do it on their own. The first step is to understand each other’s stories about why we have certain expectations. With this understanding, we can have more sensitivity to the reasons for their actions or attitudes. Then we can talk about what is important to achieve for the task at hand and come to agreement on how each of us will contribute to the outcome that we have agreed to, in a way that fits for each of us. With this method, there is a higher likelihood of success and this will build trust that each of us will respond in a the way that we now each expect.
Just for a test for yourself, think of a conflict situation in your life, explore how violated expectations might be a part of it, and how you could come together more effectively with deeper communication.