Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Principled Commitment: An Adult Program on Building Strong Relationships

Alternate Activity 4: Skills For Communicating Dignity - Managing Expectations

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint
  • Markers
  • Easel
  • Writing paper
  • Pens or pencils
  • Tables or hard surfaces for writing

Preparation for Activity

  • Set up tables, or find books or other hard surfaces for writing.

Description of Activity

Introduce the activity with these or similar words:

Every partner in a relationship has expectations. Any of these expectations may seem reasonable or unreasonable to the other partner. Mismatched expectations can lead to misunderstandings and conflict. By learning to identify and influence expectations, partners can dramatically improve the quality of their relationship.

Tell participants that the process of managing expectations involves several important steps. One at a time, write each step on newsprint and explain it in your own words, using the descriptions below as a guide. Invite comments after explaining each step.

1. Identify communication preferences.

Some people like to process (think through and discuss) everything out loud. Others prefer to process on their own while exercising or cleaning the house. Some like to communicate immediately after an event. Others need time to think things through on their own first. Determine your and your partner's preferences and make an effort to respect them.

2. Understand your partner's history and circumstances.

Everyone's background is unique. Some people are used to a great deal of attention and enthusiasm with even simple communications, like greetings and goodbyes. Others see these communications as a routine matter. It's helpful to recognize that these preferences are often rooted in past relationships with family members or previous partners.

3. Clarify perceptions.

Never assume that you understand how your partner perceives an event or interaction. Clarify perceptions so that undercurrents of emotions don't rise up into a huge wave later.

Distribute writing paper and pens or pencils. Invite participants to think about a recent situation in which their expectations weren't met, or in which they were unable or unwilling to meet their partner's expectations. Ask them to spend a few minutes writing about this situation, including their thoughts, feelings, and ideas about how both partners might have managed expectations more effectively.

Invite participants to discuss this question to summarize the activity:

  • How is expectation management related to dignity in relationships?