There are plenty of opinions about expectations and just as many quotes to support or negate those opinions. So since we all have an opinion (somebody open a window, will ya.. it stinks in here), I am going to put mine out there. You don’t have to agree with it. I respect your right to think for yourself, even when you’re wrong. 😉
I’ve had several conversations of late with several different people regarding this topic and it is my opinion that we all have expectations. Many deny having any expectations of others and I know they believe that to be true but I just can’t wrap my head around that and if I had a dollar for every time I’ve recently heard the quote below — even if it’s not an exact quote — I’d have at least enough to buy an iced latte! Wait, what? Did somebody say coffee?
While I agree with Ole Willie Shakes to a certain degree, I find expectations to be somewhat necessary because they formulate the boundaries of accepted behaviors from other folks. I think our expectations are the guidelines that we put in place so as to not have our moral standards trampled on. Now I don’t know about you but if somebody tramples on my moral standards, it’s a safe bet that my heart is prolly gonna hurt over it — regardless of what Shakespeare thinks about it.
My standards when it comes to interpersonal relationships are the boundaries I put into place for self-protection. Those boundaries allow me to be my authentic self and not have to compromise my integrity or values for the sake of someone else’s comfort level. If I do not set standards (i.e. expectations), I am simply saying that I willing to accept whatever someone else may decide to dump in my lap — silently telling them that “no matter what you do, I will just take it because I have no expectations of you”.
Human beings are not made to be islands so we have to learn to have INTERdependency and that requires an effort from all involved. Why would any of us allow another person to set our standards for us simply because they don’t have the ability or desire to respect a boundary? Why bother investing the time, the energy or a part of yourself if there is never any return? If you cannot expect a standard of respect from others, how do you cultivate trust in that person? How can you rely on them? Not to be redundant here but human beings are not made to be islands! Even Gilligan had the skipper and the professor!
Yes, having expectations can leave us open to disappointment but I think it’s a necessary risk in order to forge healthy relationships. So how does one develop a healthy relationship? Out of respect for other people’s boundaries and having that respect reciprocated. Boundaries are the unspoken statements that say ‘I respect myself enough not to have my values compromised by your behaviors’.
There is a huge difference between a boundary and an unrealistic expectations. It is unrealistic to expect others to never make mistakes. It is wrong to expect others to give more than we are willing to give of ourselves. It is unfair to expect others to think as we do or act as we would in every situation — that is what makes us individuals. As individuals, none of us are perfect. Recognizing that imperfection as a common thread means we will be more reasonable with our expectations in others. We accept the disappointments as long as they are not made with malice or disregard. To have someone say, “I made a mistake, i’m sorry and it won’t happen again” and then LIVE by that, means my trust is not misplaced. It means we are both flawed and that is okay. If I make a mistake and you tell me that it caused you pain.. it is up to me to say “I made a mistake, i’m sorry and it won’t happen again” and then LIVE by it. The same mistake made repeatedly is no longer a mistake, it has then become a choice.
What if it were something rather than someone? Would you expect your investment to never perform? If I decide I want to purchase a car and I want to spend $1000 — what kind of standard do I believe I will get in exchange for my investment? Can I depend on that $1000 car or do I need to adjust my expectations according to my investment? I think we all know the answer to that question. I fully expect my minimal investment to give me a minimal return. If I buy a car that cost me $50,000 I have a greater expectation of reliability and performance. I would have a greater disappointment if it rolled off the parking lot and then quit on me. I understand that a car does not have the ability to reason or to think like a human being but in my mind, I have a degree of expectation based on what I put into it. There is a standard of return that I need to get back in order to make my investment worthwhile or I will learn my valuable lesson and apply it in the future.
So bring on your expectations of me and make your boundaries clear because when I respect your boundaries, that shows my respect for you. In return, I will demand reciprocity. I make no apologies for that because the investment of myself is worth a return.