RELATIONSHIPS: Specifications vs. Expectations

“Technically speaking…”.

You know what someone means by starting their sentence with “technically speaking…”, but more importantly, you know what they DON’T mean. “Technically” refers to the requirements; it refers to what is explicitly demanded in someone’s obligation to a contract, or an idea, or most importantly, to a relationship. It does not mean all-around satisfaction.

“You are technically a good partner” — does that sound like a compliment to you? It doesn’t, and it shouldn’t. “Technically” is a caveat to what is reality; it is a separation between the value presented versus the experience of the value itself.

Technically refers to the specifications. It refers to what is compulsory for something to function or even exist, as explicitly laid out in a contract or some form of understanding amongst people or systems. To be blunt, it should be interpreted as the minimum requirement. Something can technically be the right color, technically serve the right purpose, but still entirely miss the expectation.

Example: Imagine I offer to give you a top-notch, sleek, street racing performance car. Now watch this (and try not to cringe at the cheesy script):

Do you want the Toyota Supra or the legendary 90’s street racing icon, Ferrari F355 Spyder? The Toyota more than meets the specs, but the Ferrari most likely is the answer to that question; and THAT is “Expectations”.

As I recently learned in my experience, meeting someone’s specifications of what you agreed upon is not the same as meeting the expectation they hope for. In trying to figure out how to close this gap, I began to fixate (rightly so) on the underlying term here: hope. The challenge is that “hope” is deeper than “need”. It requires digging into someone’s or something’s vision. Often, the person or system dictating the requirements doesn’t necessarily realize or fathom what they hope for themselves. It is also very important to note that the more complex and intricate the requirements, the larger the gap between specifications and expectations may be.

If “need” is the sex in the relationship, then “hope” is the love: it’s not something you can probably explain or maybe even lay out a measurement for on the 1st day, but you’ll definitely know it when you see it.

True expectations are partially based in our perceptions, and therefore at least partially live in your feelings or subconscious. They are rarely apparent or explicit. In fact, visionaries are often identified and admired for being able immediately to tap into this deeply rooted vein, while the rest of us need to build up to it.

The most important part of this revelation for me is that going from specifications to expectations is an iterative process; it cannot truly be defined until it is visible. Active and ongoing communication is the only way to go from being technically acceptable to being the exact vision for the relationship or product.

I intend to chalk this up as reason #1,253 for perfecting communication skills.