Expectations are a frequent topic of conversation with my clients. Whether we are aware of them or not, our expectations have a tremendous influence on the way we interpret the people and the world around us. Most of the discussions in my office focus on the ways that expectations can hinder relationships, but in truth they have both positive and negative aspects. The distinction usually comes down to awareness, values, and defensiveness.
On the negative end of the spectrum, expectations can hinder our ability to empathize, collaborate, explore, and learn.
Unchecked, expectations can fuel bias and make it difficult to consider other perspectives. Don’t confuse expectations with values; alternate expectations aren’t necessarily a challenge to core beliefs. Rigid expectations stifle relationships and discourage transparency.
Conversely, healthy expectations can inspire others to be the best versions of themselves.
Acting as though you expect kindness, courtesy, and thoughtfulness to be a relational norm can exert a powerful influence on others.
The expectation that we will behave in an honorable or altruistic fashion is a powerful inducement to do so. Expectations can also counteract complacency and fuel change, allowing people and organizations to see themselves with new potential.
We all have expectations-recognized and not, reasonable and not, helpful and not. It’s important that they be acknowledged, evaluated, and altered, if warranted. Some, but not all, expectations are linked strongly with values.
Finally, it’s alright to hold on to an expectation that’s significant to you, but it’s important to recognize that it’s your expectation and not a universally held value.
Jill Howgate, LAPC