Expectations are sort of like the unwritten rules of a friendship.

They are the ways that you expect a friend to behave and the things you want them to do for you (usually without having to ask). It can be hard to know what the expectations in a friendship are, because they’re usually things we take for granted.

In fact, we usually discover what our expectations are once our friend stops meeting them. If you get passed by in the hallway once, you might just assume that your friend was having a bad day. But if it happens enough that you start feeling hurt or snubbed, it’s a pretty sure sign that the expectations of the friendship have been broken.

Knowing your own expectations

It feels bad when a friendship doesn’t meet your expectations, but it can have an upside as well. When you feel that a friend has let you down, you can discover what you need and want from a friendship, which can improve your friendships in the long run.

Some questions you can ask yourself include:

  • Why do you feel let down or upset with your friend? 
  • What would your friend have had to do differently for you to feel okay?
  • Do you think your friend understood your expectations? Did you ever tell your friend what they were?
  • Do you think your friend would agree that your expectations are reasonable? Why or why not?
  • Do you think your friend has similar expectations of you?

What’s up for negotiation?

Having different expectations doesn’t mean that the friendship can’t work; sometimes all that’s needed is some open communication and a little negotiating. Talking about expectations can be difficult and emotionally charged, so here are some tips on how to approach this sort of conversation:

  • Wait until you are alone with your friend
  • If possible, pick a time when things have cooled down
  • Try not to attack. Say something like, “There’s something on my mind that I’d really like to talk to you about.…”
  • Be specific about how you felt, but don’t accuse your friend of doing something wrong. Say, “I felt let down when X happened, and I was hoping you could tell me your side of it.”
  • Listen to what your friend has to say as openly as possible, and try to understand where they are coming from. Do things look different from their point of view?
  • Name your expectations. If there are certain things about the friendship that just aren’t open to negotiation, be clear. For example, “If you are going to be late please make sure you give me a call or text me.”
  • Accept an apology. Your friend might not realize that they have hurt you. That’s why it’s good to be honest and open.

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Last Reviewed August 2013 by the Kids Help Phone Counselling Team

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