Our expectations are based on the degree of probability that we assume or hope something will happen. That being said, when we know ourselves well enough, we are able – more often than not – to assume and to predict how we will act and what we are likely to say in a given situation … or, put another way, how we might expect ourselves to act and/or react.
Even then, that’s a tall order because we are often caught off guard and placed in situations beyond our control. How we respond may turn out to be quite different from how we would have expected ourselves to respond. Yet, the odds are still in our favor that –and I repeat – if we know ourselves well enough, we are more apt to respond in ways that we’re able to predict because we have certain well-defined expectations of ourselves.
I think where many of us get into trouble is when we expect others to act as we would act or say what we would say. We feel hurt or angry when their behavior doesn’t match our conscious or unconscious expectations, and our disappointment leads us to feeling uncomfortable and at odds with them. When taken to an extreme, we even feel compelled to end our relationship.
Instead, I suggest that since we can not control how others think or behave, the lesson to be learned is that – at best – we must aim to know ourselves, to know what we most value, and to set clear standards for ourselves, accepting that the basis for a healthy relationship is when each person gives as much as he or she takes; listens as much as he or she speaks; and, most importantly, that both persons agree to disagree respectfully. In fact, mutual respect, is the one expectation in any relationship that is non-negotiable.
Naturally, it makes for easier relationships and better communication when we are able to be in the company of people whose behavior doesn’t repel us or whose thinking is not totally contrary to our own. Yet, in the subtle areas of daily living – and the majority of areas are subtle and not blatantly obvious – the greatest challenge is to accept others for who they are and then work to preserve those relationships that are most important to us.
In today’s world with the many pressures we all feel, it’s all too easy to become so self-absorbed – concerned primarily with everything that affects us personally – that we lose sight of the needs of others and are insensitive to the way in which we relate to them, which includes what we expect from them.
We would all spare ourselves a great deal of grief if we would stop to take into account who the other person is – his or her strengths and weaknesses – before we allow our expectations to tarnish our responses.
Do you agree? If not, do tell me why. I’m always eager to learn.