Challenge: Your Activation vs Their Unexpressed Expectations

Cindy JobsHealth and Well-Being

I had a tough session with a client last week. 

This client came to me a few months ago with typical ADHD concerns:

  • Missing appointments because of inconsistent utilization of calendars/planners.
  • Lack of activation on tasks.
  • Not making transitions from one task to another.
  • Lateness due to hyperfocus on passions.
  • Communication challenges.

The above concerns show up in almost all of my client interactions, however, it’s the communication challenge that caused this particular client significant pain last week, and it wasn’t really their fault.

What happened?

This client and their partner had just returned from a week-long family vacation.  With the exception of a few bumps in the road, the trip had been amazing. Upon return to their home, my client’s partner left to run some errands.  My client took a nap. 

When the partner returned home, all heck broke loose.

  • “Why are you sleeping?”
  • “Have you been sleeping the entire time I’ve been gone?”
  • “Why haven’t you unpacked?”
  • “Why isn’t the car washed?”
  • “Why haven’t you started any laundry?”
  • “I can’t believe how lazy you are!”
  • “I’m the only one that does anything around here.”
  • “You are worthless!”

Wow!  What happened here?

Granted, my client could have unpacked, washed the car, and started the laundry.  But they didn’t.  They were exhausted from the trip and decided to take a nap to help recuperate.

The big disconnect?

My client’s partner never asked my client to unpack, wash the car, or start the laundry.  They had just assumed my client would see what needed to be done and do it without being asked.

The result?  My client experienced a huge hit to their self-esteem and the 30-second exchange wiped out nearly all of the positive vacation memories.

Communication challenges like this are hard for nearly everyone, but especially difficult for individuals challenged with ADHD.  With life-long experiences of not measuring up to others’ expectations, this type of communication continues to reinforce that they just aren’t good enough.

What could have prevented this negative encounter?

  1. My client could have asked if anything needed to be done while their partner was running errands.
  2. My client’s partner could have made specific requests to my client before they left to run errands.
  3. Once my client and their partner realized that there had been a disconnect, rather than devolve into screaming and shaming, they could have taken a moment of pause.  Pausing gives our brains time to catch up with our emotions, keeping us from saying mean and hurtful things that can’t be taken back.

What kinds of communication fly-bys have you been a part of?  What can you do to ensure this type of thing doesn’t happen to you, your friends, family or colleagues?

Where have your expectations not measured up to your requests?

Cindy Jobs

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