Living Up To Expectations
November 15, 2010 in Life Lessons
Have you ever noticed that when people expect you to behave in a certain way, or to look a certain way, that you often slip into that behavior even when it is not really who you are? Somehow those expectations cause us to become a chameleon – acting out a role based on an expectation.
Several years ago, Jennifer, a young team lead at a company I was working with, came to talk to me about how her supervisor had just told her that she thought she was a trouble-maker and caused a great deal of disharmony with her fellow team leaders. Jennifer was in tears, and ready to quit, because she believed she was working hard to improve the way things were done within her department. But, the more she tried to do what she thought her supervisor wanted her to do, the worse things got. The day she came to see me, a loud argument had taken place between Jennifer and Sally, another team lead within the department. Jennifer had been called on the carpet, and put on notice. She came to see me because when we talked, Jennifer never felt like she was a trouble-maker. She felt encouraged and strong every time she left my office, and knew that she brought good ideas to the forefront. The conversation that day was centered on why she felt like two different people depending upon who she was working with.
I explained to Jennifer that it could be a difference in how she was being perceived. When we look upon someone with a limited set of expectations, good or bad, that person invariably rises to the occasion. The key is in remembering the potential that is inherent to that person. Remembering a person’s potential changes how we value them, and how we react to them. And, consequently, it changes how that person thinks and feels about themselves.
There is an ancient Hindu greeting “Namaste”, which is given in lieu of our more common “Hello” or “Hi”. Roughly translated, it means “I see and greet the soul, or divinity, within you.” I have thought long and hard about the meaning of this greeting, and I believe that what we believe about another person may be mirrored back to them when they are with us and may affect them in ways it is difficult for us to comprehend. That sense of possibility, our perception of that person, may be communicated by our tone of voice, our facial expression, or even in the words we choose to use. Sometimes I wonder if I’m not communicating my expectations simply by the visual image I hold in my mind’s eye. If, as we interact with people throughout our days, we greet their soul – their authentic self, full of potential and grace – with no expectations, will we be blessed with an amazing gift?
As I have lived my life, I have become more in tune with the infinite possibilities within each person I meet. I find it exciting to hold no expectations (just so you know, I’m still working on this). It is an amazing experience to let the uniquely individual growth take place without knowing what direction it may go.
On the flip side of this, it is important to be aware of how we might be reacting to others’ expectations of us. What if we were to disengage from the feelings we have, and look at those same feelings from a detached point of view? What would we see? Is our behavior who we really are, or are we behaving in a manner that has become an expectation of us? When we are able to look at “how we are living up to expectations” as an outsider looking in, what might we do to change those expectations?
Let’s walk through a practical example of how this can play out in a relationship. Let’s say that Jennifer is used to envisioning projects, making plans, and then implementing them with very little help. Sally, her peer, would like to be included in the brainstorming, planning and being a real part of the implementation. Because that doesn’t happen, Sally is getting hypercritical of everything Jennifer does, and feels left out. Because this situation plays itself out over and over, Sally has become resentful enough to turn away from all projects, and Jennifer doesn’t understand why Sally doesn’t want to help with the implementation. Jennifer begins to expect resentment and withdrawal behaviors from Sally, and Sally begins to expect Jennifer to leave her in the dark, and pulls away from the project. This is a catch-22, creating a considerable breakdown in the relationship.
As a coach, I would ask both of them to lay out what they really want to happen in the future and to have an open conversation with each other so they might begin to change their expectations. There are tremendous growth possibilities available for both parties in this situation, and the fate of their ongoing relationship may lie in the balance. If Sally were to let Jennifer know that it is her expectation to be included in the projects from the very beginning, and how happy she is to participate in all aspects, Jennifer is more likely to begin to have the expectation of Sally to be excited about the projects, and interested in participating. This creates a win-win for both of them, and will begin to stabilize the relationship.
How are you “living up to expectations” and what expectations do you have of others?
I am more than the expectations others have of me, and I am open to the possibilities expressed by everyone.
Georgia Feiste, owner of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, is a personal growth and leadership transition coach, writer, and workshop facilitator. She is also a Usui Reiki Master. Georgia specializes in career, business and personal life transitions for people seeking change in their life. Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life. You can also find her on her websites http://www.collaborativetransitions.com and http://www.georgiafeiste.com. Georgia can be reached at (402) 304-1902 or you can schedule a 30 minute consultation via Automated Appointment.