Like good boundaries, good expectations make good neighbors.  Because having an accurate expectation of what is going to happen in a given situation can help you sail through with aplomb, help you achieve something you want or can save a life.  Having inaccurate expectations sets you and pretty much everyone else up for failure.  Having no expectations can be helpful, depending on the situation, because it puts you in a space where you experience everything and can react in the moment.

Why does it matter?  Well, knowing that the ambulance and the police are going to arrive within a certain time frame can help you make decisions in the moment that can save your life.  But that’s not really what I’m trying to get at.  Where I see issues is really expectations connected to relationships.  Or expectations used to form or consolidate relationships.  For example, working with a car dealership.  Salespeople there know about relationships, reciprocity for example, and so try to form a relationship with you so they can have an edge in sales and price negotiation.  We won’t haggle much with a friend where we very well might be ruthless with a sales person.  So they set expectations, reciprocity, as soon as they can by offering you a ‘deal’, a rebate, a lower price, an extra warranty, what have you, so that you feel obligated to reciprocate by buying the car.

No one likes that process, the mildly coercive ‘slimy’ misuse of relationship mechanics.  That’s why care salespeople have such bad reputations.  But what about in our own lives?  What about our use of expectations?  Don’t we expect that when we do something for someone else they owe us?  At least that they should be friendlier towards us?  I mean, we did something that wasn’t for ourselves and that’s like money, if we give it out we deserve something in return, right?

No, not really.  In the realm of personal relationships, actions don’t necessarily change feelings or create debt.  And who would want a relationship which is built on the mathematics of owing?  I can’t imagine that going anywhere positive.  But most people struggle with this every day.  It’s not that they mean to, but they set out to do things with the intention of getting something back, either an improved relationship, the forming of a relationship, an I.O.U. for use later, or some kind of advantage.  Not in every action, not in ever relationship, but we have so many interactions throughout the day, there’s at least one interaction a day that falls into this category.  And if we go in with expectations of reward, we’re due for some disappointment, most often when we don’t inform the other party of our expectations.  And what if they don’t agree?  What if their motivations are different from ours?  What if something changes during or after the action?  Human beings are change machines and life is a very fluid thing….

Well, just because someone needs you in one moment doesn’t mean they will like you the next.  And just because you have some relevance to their life in this now doesn’t mean you will in their future.  And the one constant in the Universe is that nothing is certain.  So set your expectations accordingly.  Don’t do things because you think you’ll get something for it or if you do, make sure that expectation is clear before you start.  If you are going to have that expectation and you don’t feel comfortable voicing it to the other party, think again about doing what you’re thinking of doing.  It’s true, dance like people aren’t watching.  You’ll enjoy it a whole lot more and when people join in, you won’t have to check the balance sheet to see if you’re in debt to them.