Recently, I had an extremely tedious and frustrating encounter with an editing client. After working on the manuscript for weeks, the client refused to pay the full amount for services rendered because of dissatisfaction with the end result.
From the beginning, I should have recognized red flags signaling expectations were greater than the level of change possible. The warning signs were there—four phone calls with the same questions asked and answered each time, meandering, unclear statement of expectations, unwillingness to provide the missing information I needed to enhance the manuscript. In short, the expectation of a miracle and dissatisfaction that one did not occur!
As is always the case, I gleaned from the experience. Following are some observations about expectations, dissatisfaction, and maintaining forward motion:
Any time you create a personal vision of what you want to have happen, or how you expect others to respond, or both, you set yourself up for dissatisfaction. Events, people, and our imaged time frame rarely follow the path we envision. Over-expecting is the main contributor to dissatisfaction, and the higher you place your satisfaction bar, the greater your level of disappointment when it’s not reached.
Honestly evaluate your expectations. Can others meet your expectations when you can’t even clearly define them yourself? Are you expecting the impossible? Just because you’d like a certain thing to happen doesn’t mean it’s possible. Take some time to think beyond your wants to reality and whether the two even come close.
In conversations with my client, stated goals for the project were as nebulous as the galaxy. Want this, but hope for that. Thought about one thing, but considered another. Wondered about this, but maybe should think about that. Each conversation was like blasting off into outer space, with no target destination, and splashing down with no clear reason for the trip.
When you can’t pin down your goals, and ping from one what-if to the next, you’ll likely never be satisfied. Undefined goals lead to shifting expectations. Eventually, you can’t remember what you hoped to accomplish in the first place.
To avoid dissatisfaction, pick a goal, focus on it, stick to it, and work only on that goal. When you have completed that goal, move on to the next one. Too many goals scattered in too many directions likely mean none will be accomplished. A target, plus a straight shot, equals a bull’s-eye.
We live in a society where blaming others is the default mode for unfulfilled expectations. When not pleased with an outcome, many look around for someone, or something, to blame rather than examining how realistic expectations were in the first place.
Not only did my client blame me for his disappointment, he questioned my ability as a editor and a professional writer, never acknowledging that his expectations, and what he gave me to work with, were light years apart.
Instead of blaming, view unmet expectations through a realistic lens. Your level of expectation and disappointment aren’t someone else’s fault.
We’ve all dealt with people who just aren’t please-able no matter how hard you try. With each encounter you have renewed hope, but know in the back of your mind that the outcome will be the same as it always is because the person has a negative outlook and nothing is ever satisfactory.
Don’t waste time trying to please someone who doesn’t acknowledge your efforts or find them acceptable. Distance yourself from the dissatisfied and don’t allow them to slow you down and cause you to question your abilities.
Shake Off the Dust
So how do you handle encounters with dissatisfied people or your own dissatisfaction?
When New Testament disciples set out on missionary journeys, they were instructed to leave a home or town where they were not welcomed, or listened to, and shake the dust off their sandals as they went.
Whether you are a student of the Bible or not, there is merit in this concept. Often, we allow the dust of dissatisfaction to cling to us, color our perceptions, and halt our next steps. Learning to move beyond dissatisfaction enables you to progress to the next goal, personal encounter, area of learning, or endeavor without the residue of disappointment clinging to you.
As with many things in life, forward motion is thwarted when focus is on what’s behind you, or what’s still clinging to you. So shake off the dust of dissatisfaction and take the next steps forward with confidence.
“Some people may not welcome you or listen to your words. If they don’t, leave that home or town, and shake the dust off your feet.” Matthew 10:14 NIRV
Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving beyond difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including: Inspiration.org, Arisedaily.com, CBN.com, Healthgrades.com, Care.com, Focus on the Family, NextAvenue.org, CountryLiving.com, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House) and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).
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We need to be able to enter the editing with open minds. I pray that I listen and truly hear what editors and critique partners say about my writing. 🙂
Writing is a creative process and sometimes it’s difficult to be receptive to changing our creations. But every writer benefits from editing.