We all have them and we function a certain way because of them, but we don’t always appreciate the value we receive when they are met. As I was driving to work this am I saw a simple act of courtesy, something that happens somewhere every day of every week. The problem that I saw was that the act appeared to be expected but not appreciated. So many people go through life with the misunderstanding that people will meet our expectations and if they don’t it is the other person’s fault. Too often these same people do not provide positive reinforcement for the acts that they expect, and this is where I believe the problem lies.
Before I go on, let me explain. As I was driving to work I saw a women intending to turn across traffic to a side street. A few things that noticed were that she turned in to the turning lane at an angle not direct – her tail end was still partly blocking the traffic lane, she did not use a signal light and had her cell phone in one hand and her other hand on the steering wheel. The car in front of me stopped and then after a few cars went by someone in the adjacent lane stopped to let her cross. Once all the cars stopped, she continued across without so much of a nod, wave or smile – just kept talking and driving.
What I noticed in that time was the expectations. The woman expected everyone to stop because she was turning, she expected people would just go around her because she did not pull fully in to the turn lane, she expected to not have to inconvenience herself by using a signal, or acknowledging the people who accommodated her. This lack of consideration, acknowledgement/appreciation happens to be one of my pet peeves. Anytime someone does something for others that goes un-acknowledged or appreciated, I believe it reinforces their expectations of what is normal. Yes, this woman probably had other things on her mind, but how hard is it to smile or a mouth “Thank You” to the ones that let her cross, use her signal or not block the traffic lanes? You need to be conscious of the people and world around you.
Now not everyone would agree with this and many will tell you that you cannot change other people and what you need to do is change your own perception of the situation. They will continue that if you do not, you will accomplish nothing but to drive yourself crazy and those around you – because the other person has no idea that they just affected you the way they did. Well, I disagree. There was a time that I believed in this and struggled to follow that example – and in some situations I still do. After all, we must give some credit to others, for it is hard for us to know or even guess at the motivations behind another’s actions. It is the persistent expectations that become the problem.
In theory the forgive and forget concept sounds good, but in practice it is much more complicated. When people’s expectations are continually met, they get it ingrained that is how it “should” be and act out in defense when they are not. So if I expected something (consideration for others) why should it matter that the woman had her own expectations? This is where the type of expectations and the responses are important.
It is very easy to expect that people will act a certain way, sometimes these expectations are cultural, sometimes they are gender based and sometimes they are based on our geographical location. A handshake as a greeting in one culture may be considered rude in another, in New York City changing lanes without a signal maybe considered normal – if not practical to keep from getting blocked and having a woman slapping a guy out for being crude maybe considered un-lady like, yet in some places it would be considered perfectly natural. This to say that we need to be careful of getting too comfortable with our expectations. New Yorkers that come to Florida may want to think twice about cutting off a couple good old boys in a jacked up 4×4 because they plan to change lanes – the outcome may not be what they expected.
When so many people go through life with the misunderstanding that people will continue to meet their expectations yet do not provide positive reinforcement for these acts they minimize the chance that they will continue to happen. So if we cannot change other people and we should not always let it slide, what can we do to make things better? Start with thinking about your own expectations. When your expectations are met, acknowledge that it is appreciated and when they are not (assuming they are realistic), you may need to let the other party know this. This is especially important in personal and work relationships. If you are not doing this, it’s time to consider changing your ways.
It seems that our society has gotten really bad about setting high expectations for what we want, but setting a low priority on acknowledging the acts that meet them. Rudeness and inconsideration for someone else’s time and money have become increasingly common at all ages, but especially in today’s younger “ME” generations. For children and teens these days it is considered normal to be loud and disrespectful and many parents and authority figures expect and accept this as normal behavior. As long as this continues, these children’s and youth’s expectations will not change. In a personal or business relationship if you continue to meet other’s expectations to try to keep them happy but do not receive some form of recognition, appreciation or equal treatment your creating a norm that may eventually be hard to reverse.
On the practical side, yelling at another driver for not using their signal or not giving an acknowledging wave for letting them in your lane may not be the smartest thing and may even prove dangerous, but your personal and business relationships are areas that you can work on. Now, all of this is not meant to say that you need a reward or a pat on the back for everything you do or say, it’s about not promoting unhealthy expectations in yourself and others. Some have an uncanny ability to forgive and forget or so it appears, but many times they are just stewing inside, until some day they burst.
As far as expectations on articles, I know it has been a while since I have done a post, life has just been crazy lately with other responsibilities and writing tasks. I have a couple of articles coming up in AUGI World this summer, with the first coming in May on the hiring process and the second in July on how to keep those you hired. I’ll let you know once they are published. If you missed the last article I did for AUGI World that discussed the “Domino Effect” of Training, you can find it here:
See you next post where I’ll dive in to what “change” is.
When I got home Saturday I found your card in my pocket and curiosity led me to enter your site.
The first thing I came across was your blog on Expectations. The funny thing is that I jumped right into reading the first paragraph without reading the title. I read the first paragraph twice and came to the conclusion you were talking about people’s expectations. Sure enough I looked up and the title was…
I read the entire blog and was simply blown away. I encounter people with these “expectations” every day.
I often refer to them as the MF squared people (Me First Mother Fu%#ers) that can’t see past the end of their nose.
Your blog summed up my feelings about the issue perfectly. I knew there was a reason I’ve always enjoyed talking with you so much. We think very much alike and you offer novel ideas and thoughts that are practical in the real world.
Thanks Mike – good catching up. We will have to get together again!