“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.”
― Donald Miller
Every day we get in touch with people, we talk with them, we spend beautiful moments together. But sadly relationships are not always perfect, not every meeting is a good one and often even a single wrong word may lead to terrible discussions or even worse consequences.
We can’t deny that we live among people and therefore the quality of our relationships has a great importance for us, not only as it plays an important role in defining the quality of our lives, but also because people we live with can have a strong influence on our mood and feelings.
Looking deeply at the reasons of many discussions and problems occurring in our relationships we can understand that having too high expectations on others plays a primary role in most of the situations. So, what about lowering our expectations or even giving them up? Of course it might seems something ridiculous and impracticable but it is also something worth trying since an improvement of the quality of our relationships leads to an overall improvement of the quality of our lives.
Reasons to give up expectations
There are many reasons to give up expectations but probably these are the most important:
1. People are real, expectations are not. Like it or not, we have to face it: our expectations on people are absolutely unrealistic. We live in a self-centered world. Our problems are the biggest, our ideas are the smartest, while others’ ideas and businesses are worth almost nothing. How can we expect people to do whatever we wish them to do when we give little or no value to their problems? Of course they won’t, they are just as self-centered as we are. When we understand this, we can start changing this irrational vision of reality and therefore lower our expectation on people.
2. If you expect something, you get nothing. Think about this situation: you are living a bad period and therefore you expect your friends to call you, to console you, to listen to you. If they fulfil your expectation you won’t really appreciate it, because you think you deserved this treatment. If they don’t, you will feel disappointed and maybe you will even blame them for not helping you. In both the cases you get absolutely nothing, your expectation leads you nowhere.
3. When you don’t expect, you appreciate. The best things are usually unexpected. Expectation itself makes us unable to fully appreciate actions that we consider obvious. When we get rid of the idea that people are supposed to do things for us, that everyone has to be kind with us and that when we are in trouble the whole world should stop to help us, than we make a very big step forward. We are ready to appreciate every single action, every gesture, every smile, we know they are not granted and this is why we shouldn’t underestimate them.
Letting go of expectations on People
Giving up expectations on people is not something that can be achieved in a day, a week or a month. It’s a very slow and hard process that requires a lot of effort.
I am not here to tell you that it is easy. It’s a formidable task and probably it’s impossible to give up all of our expectations. Anyway, what really matters is to understand that in the world we have to deal not only with our selfish mind, but also with the people we live with and therefore we should try to let go at least the most unreasonable expectations on others in order to get rid of many discussions and disappointments.
Where to start from? Of course the first step is awareness, if you don’t understand you are having an expectation, you won’t ever do anything about it. But even to be aware is not easy since most of the time we take things for granted and we don’t focus on our thoughts. So it is essential to analyse our mind and realise whenever we are having an expectation.
Once you are sure that one of your thoughts is an expectation, just stop for a moment and reflect upon it. Try to understand where it comes from and whether it is realistic or not. If it is unrealistic than you should try to get rid of it; saying to yourself that you won’t ever do such a thing for someone else might help in this process. Otherwise, if you think that your expectation is realistic, than move ahead and try to answer to this simple questions:
- Why should the other person do what you expect him to do?
- Does he have any good reason to do that?
- Does he have anything better to do?
In the end, if you really manage to figure out a real reason the person should actually do what you expect, just gently ask him to do it. In the worst situation he will tell you that he won’t be able to fulfill your desire, and even in this case you will have achieved a good result since you won’t expect for nothing. In fact, even though you have analysed your expectation and defined it as realistic, you can’t be sure that it will be realistic also to the other person. Our reflections are deeply subjective. That’s why you should better ask and listen patiently to the other person’s point of view. You might be shocked by how much it can be different from yours.
To sum up, the key points of this process of letting go are:
1. Be aware of your expectations on people;
2. Understand if they are realistic or not;
3. Figure out if the other person has a real motivation to do it;
4. Gently ask for it;
5. Listen to the other person and try to understand his point of view.