Wednesday, March 28, 2012


So this morning I was contemplating what to write and I thought about expectations. Specifically, the power of expectations and the role expectations play in shaping our culture, our lives, our experiences. You may not ever really give much thought to the idea of expectations but they are always present, shading your every move. 99% of the time they are subconscious, only rising to the surface when they are NOT met. For example, your boss is a jerk. You go to work expecting to be mad at him or her. Guess what, you get mad at him or her. No surprise, you expected it to be that way. But what if the jerk boss surprised you with an encouraging word, a raise, a promotion, a cupcake or something like that. Your expectation would NOT be met and it would certainly shade the experience. Perhaps you would change your opinion of your boss, perhaps you would expect the hammer to fall at some point. Those expectations turned something fairly ordinary into an event shaded with fear, suspicion, elation, contemplation or some other emotion simply because what you expected to happen did not happen. Keep this in mind, we have lots of names for expectations--fear, anxiety, anticipation, restlessness, motivation, etc. Different names, but the same thing tied to differing emotions.

Expectations are super important in my line of work. When I meet with a buyer for the first time it is essential that I find out what their expectations are. See, they may have set their expectations from gathering information from sources like Trulia or Zillow. These sources are notoriously incorrect. They may have set their expectations from a previous experience with another Realtor. I need to find out if that Realtor was competent, a good communicator, etc. They may have set their expectations from the national media. If thats the case, then I have a TON of work to do! Regardless, I have to find out "where they are coming from" in order to best serve them. My goal is always to exceed their expectations, or at least meet them. I never want to fall short. Why? Because expecations color the experience and determine whether or not they will become fans. Most importantly, I am in the service industry. If I didn't meet or exceed my clients' expectations, what did I really even do for them?

So, how do I do this. Number 1, I simply ask them. What do you intend to happen? How much do you intend to spend? What kind of time frame are we dealing with? What information have you already gathered? From where? Have you purchased a home before? Was it a pleasant experience? You get the idea. For sellers, it is basically the same thing, just a little more in depth about the specific home and financial situation.

What other ways do expectations cloud our perceptions? How about in the dating arena? Like it or not our parents' relationship often sets our expectations. Our intake of media sets expectations. Our friends set expectations. Be very careful in relationships to acknowledge where your expectations come from and if they are worthwhile expectations. Often, they are not. They are unrealistic, unhealthy and unattainable. I'm not saying to lower your criteria, but rather to simply look at it from a holistic perspective.

Think about some areas of your life where your expectations hold you back. How about your spiritual life? Are you afraid to go to church because you expect the people there to be judgemental? Totally understandable but unhealthy. What about your job? Just because you never got a promotion does not mean you won't be promoted. BUT, you definitely won't be promoted if you go through your job everyday expecting that the boss hates you.

I would love to hear about how your expectations held you back and you overcame those. I would also challenge you to identify and to challenge the expectations in your life that might be detrimental. Have a great week.


Daniel said...

What a great topic to discuss. Expectations, whether reasonable or unreasonable, can lead to some major frustrations and disappointments.

My question is: Can one have a reasonable expectation for a desired eventuality?

One of the examples mentioned above was that of an expectation of how the work environment will be on a given day. Is there a difference between expectations and predictability? If the reality is that the work environment is historically one way, is it unwise to go into work expecting it to be the same?

Jonathan said...

Your question is valid and a great one to explore as "the next step." I think predictability is the result of continuously met expectations. I also think that predictability is the result of complacency. Let me explain, in my example of the boss being a jerk, you expect him to be a jerk because he is pretty much always a jerk. He meets your expectations. My question then is this, how much do you influence the outcome of your expectations? More importanly, how much do you control your REACTION to your your expectations being met, exceeded or not met? In other words, what is stopping you from exerting some sort of action to try to manipulate the result of your expectation. If your boss is always a jerk and you always talk to him in the same way and you always deliver the same quality of work to him because he is a jerk, at what point does cause become effect and vice versa? Why not dismiss your expectations, including the ones we act out ourselves subconsciously, and just simply try to be positive and do the best we can.

If I work in retail, I expect there to be a lot of people coming in on Black Friday. I expect to be tired and I would (especially if I had ever worked one before) expect folks to be cranky. What if I said, no, I am not going to give in to those expectations. I am going to treat everyone as if I expect them to be in a good mood and chipper. It would take a little bit of a mindset shift from me but think of how much better those folks' day would be. THEY expect the retail workers to be in a crappy mood because they have been dealing with shoppers all day. Then when you exceed their expectations, they are pleasantly surprised. Think of the impact of that.

Daniel said...

My expectation doesn't dictate what will happen. Despite my expectations, there is a reality of what actually happens. Because I can expect certain things to occur, I can actively prepare myself for the expected eventuality.

The point being that expecting something doesn't necessarily determine an outcome... one's proactions/reactions can. Again, because I can prepare for expectations (either positively or negatively), I can potentially affect the outcome. Which I think is what you are saying.

My point is that my expectations don't directly dictate an outcome. My actions do. Expectations merely enable me to be positively proactive about an eventuality, instead of negatively reactive.

Jonathan said...

Your expectations definitely CAN impact the outcome of a situation. How much impact is up for debate and certainly is circumstantial. When you go into a situation expecting a certain outcome, your behavior is going to mimic your expectation. And often it is involuntary--look at car wrecks for example. Someone is driving along and a chain of events occurs that makes that person expect an impact in the next few seconds, the body reacts. If that person never saw it coming, the body would not have reacted (i.e. drunk people). This reaction (brought on entirely by the expectation of an impact) often determines the extent of the injury.

Same thing in the work place. I go to work expecting the boss to be a jerk. I give ho hum results in my work because the boss is a jerk no matter my level of work (or so I expect him to be). What if I wake up and decide that I no longer expect him to be a jerk and I will no longer let that old expectation help determine my approach to the day, i.e., I no longer prepare for him to be a jerk. I instead prepare to work as hard as possible regardless of my expectation for his reaction?

I guess in my little idealist way, I am saying to approach the day without expectation. Roll with whatever is dished your way. All too often we pre-judge how the day is going to turn out and guess what, all too often this judgement ends up being more like self-fulfilling prophecy BECAUSE of how we "prepared" for our expectation of the day.

Daniel said...

Guess I put more emphasis on the reaction to one's expectations. Expectations can influence one's mindset and attitude. Thing is, I think there's an obvious reality to some situations, and to expect something different would be fooling one's self.

The thing is, by expecting something bad, one can prepare to handle the situation well... or poorly. The expectation doesn't really dictate the outcome. It merely influences one's attitude... which, again, is of great importance, too.

I concede your point to the extent that expectations can lead to either great or poor management of any given situation. Personally, I like to think ahead and plan on what to expect from life's circumstances. The hard part, though, is keeping that positive attitude, regardless.

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