Expecting nothing in life is a sure way to avoid disappointment, but not an entirely realistic way to live. We have reasonable expectations every day, like expecting to make and enjoy our coffee in the morning, or expecting the mail to arrive. But when we have expectations of people, things can get messy…
For instance, you have a friend who always talks about her problems and you always listen. One day, you expect her to listen to you talk about your problem, and she doesn’t.
Our expectations of other people are often based on unspoken social contracts. Expecting others to behave the way we want creates resentment when they don’t. Without verbalizing expectations, we construct stories in our head about how people should behave. Most people aren’t actually mind readers, so these kinds of expectations are destined for failure. Expecting others to act in your best interest, but not their own, is unrealistic. People don’t have a chance of living up to your expectations if they don’t know what they are, but we still see this as a breach of social contract.
Talking to friends and family about our expectations lessens resentments. During these conversations, we come to a mutual agreement of what is reasonable, what can be expected from both sides. When you don’t discuss your standards, you can’t blame others for not meeting them. We often use unmet expectations to justify our righteous indignation. This gives us an excuse to be angry at the people and situations in our lives. We can’t change other people, but we can change our expectations.