The world of work is full of expectations, but at times we do not realise that there are lots of other areas in our lives outside of work, that require clarification.

When we are asked to do something or if we offer our help, it’s a good idea to talk over the ramifications on both sides. People’s expectations are often poorly defined, and sometimes completely unknown. We need to be clear on the amount of time we can give and the extent of responsibility we are prepared to take on.

Here are some common areas where things can become complicated if ground rules are not agreed on:

Clarifying arrangements to meet up: Double check where you are going before you leave the house and what time you are meeting up. This seems simple enough, but I recently spent half an hour with friends walking around looking for a pub, I was told was called the White Horse, and it actually turned out to be The Red Lion! Luckily, I had my phone and managed to get through to my friend who gave me the correct name. I am not great on time-keeping, and an extra half an hour could stretch the patience of the best of friends if they are waiting to eat.

What to wear: If you are organising a night out with a group, it is good to clarify whether it is a casual or more formal night, so they know what to wear. People will put their own fashion slant on things, and some will always ‘dress up or down’ more than others, and are happy to do so. Letting others know the general dress code will lessen the possibility of someone feeling they stand out because they weren’t dressed properly.

Involvement in groups or charity work: If you volunteer to take on a charity role in any organisation — school fund-raising, book circle, Toastmasters, working in a charity shop etc. — be realistic about the amount of time you have to offer. Explain at the onset that you will see how the time is working for you, and you can always up the hours spent or decrease them depending on how you feel. People can become overwhelmed and feel taken for granted if they are left to do everything — especially when there is no financial gain for all their efforts. Charity work is very necessary and does a huge amount of good, and it would be a pity to lose someone because they were burned out and resentful from doing too much. Far better to be honest and find the level that suits you best.

Loaning money to friends or family:

Although many would advocate that loaning is something that you never do — it is very hard to see someone you care about struggling when you have the money to help.

If it is a relatively small amount of money to you (That could be £10 to one person and £1,000 to another) it might be worth giving the money as a gift. That means you get the pleasure of giving, and the person who is struggling isn’t beholden to pay it back. If it is too much money to give away, and you decide to loan it, have an open and honest conversation to discuss any potential problems with the loan.

Think ahead: If you are considering loaning a large sum (which involves most of your savings) which you may need quick access due to unforeseen events (i.e. losing your job or receiving a massive bill for house repairs) you might have to think twice about parting with the money. It is also only fair to let the person know when you need it paid back by — ie. In time for Christmas or the following summer to pay for your holidays. The borrowers could be put under huge pressure if they thought the loan was open-ended and suddenly have to repay the cash.

Remember that everyone has different priorities, and some people might feel resentful if they are going without treats to save, and then see someone you loaned money to, spending on things they regard as luxuries.

Grandparents & family helping out with childcare:

When parents are working it is the №1 priority to have their children looked after. They are dependent on the people who look after their children to be there when needed, and that on a certain day at a certain time that there children will be cared for.

Grandparents usually have a vested interest in helping out with child-care and it’s easily explained in one word — LOVE! Even so, it’s important for both parents and grandparents to have clarification on how this is going to work. We have worked successfully at this looking after our little grandsons, but both couples sat down together at the beginning to make sure we were all clear about the arrangements on both sides. We also inform each other of changes in our circumstances if days change or if a certain day is no longer working out.

Areas that needed sorting out in advance: How many days or hours carers can devote to looking after the children. This is particularly important if the grandparents or others are still working or have other regular commitments such as charity work etc.

Holiday dates need to be clarified for both the working parent and the carers, and it’s ideal to have a few back-up carers such as local creche or friend etc. It’s also important to factor in who will look after the children in the event of sickness or sudden funerals that have to be attended on specific days.

In some circumstances, issues of shopping or finance etc may need to be sorted for nappies, baby toiletries, laundry, days out etc.

Social Situations — Who is paying?

This is a common situation for all ages and circumstances. When you are out with a group of people and sharing the cost of a meal, it’s best to work out how it will be shared before the meal. Often, the bill is just divided equally, but some people feel it’s unfair if they are paying for alcohol or food they did not have.

There is no easy answer to this, and it’s a well-known social problem. It is much easier if you have someone working the bill out who is both good at sums and tactful with people!

If you are treating someone, it is easier if you let them know beforehand then you both know where you stand. It can cause confusion for the staff if two people have a stand-off over the bill at the end of the night.

These are only a few examples of clarification in every day life, there are lots of other situations. Anne will be soon posting on Clarification in the Workplace.