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We often expect too much from those around us. How often do you expect others to share your values, beliefs or preferences?
We each have certain demands and needs we expect others to meet. Sometimes these are reasonable, but sometimes they aren’t. Often a chief source of disappointment in life is when our expectations of other people aren’t met. Meanwhile, psychologists convince us to cease such harmful practices and get rid of burdensome expectations…
1. We expect people to agree with us
Keep in mind that the more people there are, the more opinions you will hear. When chatting with close friends, you shouldn’t expect them to share all your views. You will have to accept the simple truth – you should respect others’ opinions and not strive to impose your own.
Accepting others’ views and opinions, even when you don’t agree with them, is a cornerstone of tolerance. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge bad behaviour (such as sexism, racism or homophobia), but an important part of surviving modern life is having the ability to let others have their own views. After all, if you tolerate other people’s opinions, they are more likely to tolerate yours as well.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that social mores change, so you can’t always hold people’s past behviour to the standards of today. Half a century ago, interracial dating was considered scandalous. Now we have Prince Harry wedded to a mixed race American TV star. Things change.
2. We seek external approval
Humans are social creatures. Despite the value our culture places in self-sufficiency, we still care what people think about us and what impressions we make on them. We want others to have a good opinion of us and this sometimes leads to approval-seeking behaviour.
When you’re constantly seeking approval, however, you put your own self-esteem in the hands of others! It makes it all too easy to get hurt and let down.
Instead, it’s better to focus on your own self-esteem first. You’ll soon notice that your confidence and sense of self-worth draws others to you.
It might seem hard learning to give yourself praise and respect, because we’re told that these things can be vain or self-centred. Yet we need to recognise our own worth if others are to recognise it too.
One good tip is to take a sheet of paper and write down all the positive traits you possess. These can be anything from ‘good cook’ to ‘good listener’, or ‘always polite’ to ‘always tries hard’. Think, too, about the qualities that make you unique. Are you a specialist in a rare form of martial arts? Are you a keen cartoonist? Do you make a mean fancy dress costume? These are the things that distinguish us, and make us valuable to others.
3. We expect strangers to like us
Related to the above point, we often not only want people to like us – we want them to like us right now!
This is a hard lesson to learn, I feel, because we’re often told of the importance of ‘first impressions’. Yet some of my very best friends are people I actively detested when I first met them, whereas other friends were best buddies at first sight!
As in point 2, we shouldn’t expect everyone to like us, and we have to recognise that bonds sometimes take a long time to grow. Patience is a virtue, but it’s also rewarding. Slowly developing friendships can be much more durable that flash-in-the-pan companions who come and go too easily.
4. We want people to behave the way we expect
Each person lives in their own separate universe. The things they notice or prioritise or focus upon might be vastly different to the things you think are important. Everything is filtered through our own opinions and perspectives – including the attitudes we develop as we grow up. So no two people experience the same event in exactly the same way. As such, their reactions are going to be different, too.
It takes courage to admit that we might not know even half of friends’ experiences, not to mention the experiences and viewpoints of those we don’t know at all. Often we only see the tip of the iceberg – those parts of ourselves that we choose to let others see. It’s only in rare circumstances – times of great crisis or change – where people let their guard down and reveal more about themselves.
Therefore, when assessing people it’s important to avoid stereotypes and allow them to behave naturally. After all, they have the right to live their lives the way they want. Do not expect unbelievable things from them and do not demand their behave according to your worldview. And then, in response to your tolerant attitude, they will hopefully treat you in the same way.