Are you someone who expects certain things from your partner, children, friends, family members, coworkers or employer/employees? Do you notice that when what you expect doesn’t happen that you feel resentful, disappointed, hurt, frustrated, or angry?
Having expectations of others is a set-up for us. If what we are expecting does not occur, then we feel unease or uncomfortable to some degree. I am not suggesting that it is not okay to want and need certain things, or behaviors, from those in our personal and professional lives. I am saying, however, that there is a difference between expecting something versus needing, wanting, and hoping for it.
Expecting Vs. Hoping
An expectation does not leave any room for any other result. Either someone does something, or says something that you expect, or does not. This is about having an all or nothing perspective. So, is it no wonder that if we expect something from another and it does not happen that we feel resentful, disappointed, hurt, frustrated or angry?
If instead we try to approach this differently, by framing our thoughts as a request, a want, or a hope instead of an expectation, our emotional response is more likely to be less intense if what we ask for doesn’t happen. This means that we would instead think:
- “I want this person to…”
- “I would like it if they would…”
- “It is important to me that…”
- “I hope this will happen…”
Utilizing this way of approaching a desire is less likely to have a huge emotional response and one that is more in proportion with what we are looking for from another person. Thus, making it less likely for us to have negative reactions.
An Opening for Opportunities
This does not suggest that we are willing to accept less than we deserve or want. It just may mean that we do not have some rigid perspective of what is to happen. It gives us the opportunity to ask for what we need, yet, if it doesn’t happen we are not so stuck in our reaction that we aren’t able to help our partner, friend, family member, or employee/employer find a way to potentially give it to us. We can then teach them how to do this as opposed to being stuck in our intense feelings and reactions. Otherwise, if they resist we might find ourselves in a stalemate or a power struggle, which does not serve either person. We are not settling for less, we are just giving ourselves and the other person a chance to show up in a way that we may need, even if it means some negotiation.
Be Mindful of Your Body’s Response
I encourage you to notice if there is a difference in how you feel emotionally, and physically in your body, when you are hoping for someone to do something versus expecting that they will do something. Ask yourself:
- “Am I feeling less tense in my neck, shoulders and stomach?”
- “Is my breath more regular and steady, as opposed to shallow?”
- “Is my mind clearer and quieter when I am hoping someone will do something versus expecting them to do something?”
- “Do I feel more relaxed when I am not obsessing on the expectation and how to get them to do it?”
- “Have I released negative thoughts because they could not?”
Intent Vs. Desire
If we change the way we communicate our needs to the other person to a more positive energy it is more likely the other person will be more open to doing it. Such as if we approach from the perspective of changing our thoughts and communication of our intent to that of a desire by saying:
- “I would like or need,” as opposed to, “I expect this from you no matter what.”
- “It’s important that you get this done today,” as opposed to, “I expect you to get this done by the end of the day, no matter what.”
- “I appreciate you taking out the garbage,” as opposed to, “I expect you to take out the garbage.”
Although we must consider that someone might truly have limitations, and that they are not just resisting what we are asking. We would need to recognize within ourselves when something we need or want from another is not within that person’s true capabilities.
- Is this a realistic request that we are making of this person based on their capabilities?
- How do we negotiate the difference?
- When do we say to ourselves when this is authentically the best this person can do and it really needs to be good enough?
Letting Go of Resentment
If we don’t allow ourselves to go through this process, or work through it with a therapist, then we may continue to feel angry or resentful, a good part of the time. This does not serve us or the other person if we are not able to come to a place that we are comfortable. If we are not able to come to a place of comfort, the other person also may begin to feel angry and resentful, or less than, thus diminishing their ability to show up further in the relationship.
After all, disappointment doesn’t come from animosity, or even from a lack of love, but from expectations not being met.Carolyn L. Mein, D.C. Author & Speaker
There may come a time in which we need to decide if our partner, friend, family member, employee/employers limitations are ones in which we can live with, or not. And if not, what do we then do about this?
Embracing the Positive
If you struggle with feelings of resentment, disappointment, frustration or anger from unmet expectations of others, speaking with a trusted psychotherapist at Nassau Guidance and Counseling located on Long Island can help. Our licensed therapists have helped many people explore their thoughts on expectations, and find other positive approaches to reduce uncomfortable feelings and negative reactions, and improve their relationships.