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A One Way Bridge Limits choice

by Sy OgulnickAugust 2016

The expectations we have for people important to us usually tends to go in one direction. If given the responsibility over others (holding power and influence) the methods many choose miss the opportunity for dialogue, possible learning and agreement--if that is what they seek. Also, often expectations for our partners, children, students and employees go unstated or are inadequately expressed. Too much is taken for granted and assumptions fill the space between us.

 In order to avoid a significant barrier to our relationships the expectations we have towards others needs to be brought into the open for the possible clarity and understanding that may result. It seems so obvious a thing to do and yet bringing our expectations out for others is too often avoided. Communication of sorts may take place, but in the form of monologue not dialogue. Those on the receiving end are aware of the sign: “One Way Bridge,” but also feel the message “My way or the highway.”

If expectations are to be exposed and turned from monologue to dialogue those in power need and must build a safe and nurturing environment between themselves and those they have expectations for.  This is not the responsibility of those dependent on the leader, and in any case is an impossible task for those dependent on a more powerful person. People dependent on any leader make the decisions having to do with their own safety, security and whether or not the leader is to be believed and trusted. So it is not what leaders say, but what is experienced and internalized by those subordinate to the leader.

A simple example: The parent plans on their teenager to go to Law School; to follow in their steps and join in their law practice. The teenager dreams of being a musician. There is little discourse only the subtle or not so subtle pushing of goals the parent has in mind for their son or daughter. If funding and full support is the issue, and in many cases it is, those that are dependent may give up what calls to them for the support and relatively well laid out path they are assured of. The alternative is to follow their dreams and an unknown, insecure trail. The possibility of all support being cut off makes it difficult to select one’s own path.  How much better if the players in this common drama could meet and dialogue over their true intentions and expectations?

I believe it is imperative that if expectations are to be opened to the people that have to fulfill what is expected of them the setting has to be safe and respectful of them. And they need to know and feel this. Words will not make it so, but behavior will. The earlier this process of building respect, safety and the sense of mutuality into the relationship the better and easier it becomes for all.  Finally, powerful people tend to build environments they, themselves, may not clearly understand and may not accept being responsible for. In any case, they and their dependents, suffer consequences that arise from any dysfunctional and oppressive environments. Leaders create the environment only they can change.

It is not an exterior make-over of a leader, but is a growth process that is inner driven. If one is to be true to others they must be true to themselves. Respectful and nurturing expectations will come from this as will an appropriate environment and mutually meaningful relationships.               Sy

 

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