There is a hidden source of power or pain that often goes unaddressed by many individuals. Truth is expectations can have a far-reaching impact on how people live their lives and the goodies they reap along the way. Expectations are assumptions about the future – what will occur or what should occur – and they can profoundly influence your relationships, your self-confidence, your happiness and your ability to navigate your path in life.

Relationships are profoundly affected by expectations. Unfortunately, some
people – I would go so far as saying many people – don’t give much
consideration to what they’re expecting from others and how these expectations
may be affecting the health of their personal interactions. Our perceptions, opinions and beliefs often go unchallenged by us, as if they’re unassailable because they’re so much a part of who we are and what we know.

ABOUT OTHERS: DON'TS

Don’t expect others to think like you and believe what you believe

There is a real danger in assuming that others are wrong because their experiences and views differ from ours. When this prejudicial assumption prevails, the believer may take on an air of superiority that’s a hindrance to active listening, the resolution of conflicts and the development of close, mutually advantageous relationships.

Do you tell yourself that you must continually prove that your opinions are
correct and that being wrong is unacceptable? Do you think this approach of
needing to be right is a sign of strength? If you answer these two questions in
the affirmative, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you’re experiencing relationship
difficulties.

Relationships work far better when people are open-minded and engaged in
understanding and appreciating the other person’s viewpoint. Keep in mind that listening and respecting the opinions of others does not necessarily mean you agree, but that you recognize and support the other person’s right to think for himself.

Don’t expect others to behave like you, have the same emotional
reactions and follow your rules

Where in the world do some folks come up with the bizarre notion that they get
to decide what constitutes appropriate, acceptable behavior? What’s the deal
with this crazy idea that others should be like them, behave like them and want
what they want? This mindset resides way outside of reality.

People are different– thank goodness for that! If you’re deluded by this narcissistic attitude, your relationships would be far better served if you summarily dismissed this nonsense from your repertoire! Trust me, it can be quite a relief to resign from
the self-anointed position of grand rule legislator for the universe.

People who fear those who behave differently or follow a different drummer live
in a closed, threatening world of anger and frustration. Get your expectations in line with reality. H. Jackson Browne, the New York Times bestselling author of Life’s Little Instruction Book, gets it exactly right when he points out, “People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”

Don’t expect people to change for you

Oh my, do I see this phenomenon far too often, particularly in loving
relationships! One romantic partner is so sure the other person should make the
changes deemed important by him or her. This expectation may not have been
presented to the other party or may go over like a lead balloon if it has been
suggested. You may request that someone make a change, but anything beyond that is generally a violation of healthy boundaries.

Learn to accept the other person’s shortcomings. Even better, start to love them
for their flaws or eccentricities. You can turn those behaviors that frustrate you into something much more palatable. It's a matter of how you frame this in your own mind. Consider these peccadilloes as something that is part of what makes this person unique. It’s really your choice. Doing so not only improves relationships, it also reduces the stress in your life.

Don’t expect others to take responsibility for your decisions, your happiness and your life

Expecting others to take care of you is a recipe for disaster. By abdicating your
responsibility to yourself, you’ve increased the likelihood of disappointment,
resentment and complicated, unhealthy relationships. You’re skating on thin ice if
you expect any relationship to resolve your problems or fill the voids in your life.

Resentment abounds in situations where someone, usually due to fear or
anxiety, relinquishes personal control. Even though you might hand it over
willingly or gratefully, negatives feelings often arise when: the other person
expects you to do what’s been advised and you don’t like the recommendation or
the other person doesn’t want the responsibility; or, heaven forbid, the person
doesn’t have your best interests at heart and gives you bum advice.

Others are ill-equipped to provide what would truly enhance the robustness of
your life, because only you can do that. Trust yourself in making your life what
you want it to be. If you rely on others to convince you that you’re special,
worthy and accomplished, you put yourself in the helpless/reactive mode.
Instead of increasing the positive feelings between you and this person, a mess
often ensues. These situations rarely turn out okay. Often, relationships are
bruised, maimed or ruined by these entanglements.

Many of the clients I’ve seen over the years have found themselves bewildered
by the effects of this mindset. And they were continually surprised by how poorly
they were served by this reliance on “the relationship.” Some folks even take this
dependency to the extreme. Thus, the term “codependent” comes to mind, which
is characterized by addictive, self-destructive and relationship-destructive
behavior. Healthy relationships are balancing acts with commitment to both independent and mutual goals and activities.

Don’t expect people to treat you fairly according to your definition

The misguided concept that life should be fair, and all the people with whom you
come in contact should treat you fairly, is nothing but trouble. In therapy and
coaching I call this the “you gotta be kidding me” philosophy! The person
obsessed with fairness is perpetually keeping score. Gag me! Of course, what
constitutes fairness in this regard is defined by each person, a perplexing
problem and a trap, for sure.

But I have news for you: First bulletin – the world is not fair! Second bulletin –
other people (surprisingly?) may not, and probably don’t, see fairness the way
you do. Oh well. You don’t get to make the rules or control how others think. But
it will help if you understand and accept an adaptable, reasonable approach:
Treat others with dignity and refuse to allow anyone to mistreat you. Define
mistreatment carefully and sparingly. Forget about fairness, which often involves unrealistic expectations of others and deems you the center of the universe which, of course, you are not.

DO'S

Do pay attention to what others do well, expect them to have strengths and possibilities of which you are unaware; communicate your faith in their futures; support them in their discovery

As statesman and naturalist Sir John Lubock posits, “What we see depends
mainly on what we look for.” Let me give you an example of the importance and
power of where you direct your focus. I’ve worked with many parents over the
years who are at their wit’s end because their child is misbehaving, sometimes
outrageously, even dangerously so.

Many times I find that parents are focusing completely on what the child is doing
wrong, with no attention being paid to the many things the youngster is doing
right. I understand that the parents feel overwhelmed and alarmed by the
misbehaviors, but what they end up doing is telling the child loudly and clearly
how to get their attention, albeit negative attention.

You might be surprised to know that even negative attention can be quite
reinforcing! I tell parents that they are often considered by the child to be the
“best game in town,” that for the child it can be fun to misbehave and then
watch the parents go crazy!

When I inquire about the child’s positive behaviors, so many times I’m told there
aren’t any to report. Now, unless the child is Damien in The Omen, I suggest to
the parents that we need to look harder. Obviously the child’s good deeds, times
of calm and reasonable behavior are getting no attention at all. The parents are
often astounded by the changes in the child’s behavior when they pay less
attention to the negative behavior and more to the positive. They look at me like
I’m a genius! The clinical advice is “Catch them doing good.” This same principal
works equally well for adult relationships.

Author's Bio: 

She has served as a hospital staff psychologist and has lectured on topics ranging from stress management, meditation and relaxation training to assertiveness and sleep management. Today, her private practice in San Diego is dedicated exclusively to Positive Psychology Coaching.

Her first book, "It's Your Little Red Wagon… 6 Core Strengths for Navigating Your Path to the Good Life," was Dr. Esonis’ initial contribution to the field of Positive Psychology, presenting proven success factors and strength-building techniques that can lead individuals to a life of purpose, motivation and personally-defined happiness.

In "8 Crazy Beliefs That Screw Up Your Life -- Change These Beliefs and Become a Healthier, Happier Person," Dr. Esonis identifies eight “Thematic Belief Systems” that, in her experience as a psychologist and life coach for over 30 years, prevent individuals from building healthy, long-lasting relationships and extracting maximum happiness from life. She examines these “crazy beliefs” with all their negative implications and offers practical, persuasive arguments for why – and how – they can be replaced with healthy alternatives.

Dr. Esonis is a member of the San Diego Professionals Coaches Alliance (SDPCA) and is a Founding Member of the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP).