Great Expectations

"Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed."
-Alexander Pope
Today we'll be looking at expectations. The issue with expectations, of course, is that everybody has different ones. So we will be looking at these expectations- particularly, expectations of people- and what they're based on, to see if these expectations are reasonable. Because everybody has expectations, and everybody thinks that their expectations are perfectly acceptable.

When you meet somebody, you will tend to make subconscious judgements about them based on how well they fit into the many expectations that you have. Some expectations are very common. For example, I imagine that you probably expect for somebody that you meet to be standing or sitting when you meet him or her, as opposed to licking your shoes. This is a common expectation- so common, in fact, that most people don't even think about it. Is this expectation reasonable? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I despise small talk. When I meet somebody, I expect them to greet me with a real conversation, as opposed to the weak chit-chat of the world. This rarely happens; most people that I meet do not live up to my expectations. But let's look at the other side of the coin. Somebody else may expect me to greet them in a socially correct manner, using small talk, before we get to know eachother better. I will, of course, engage in polite small talk with them (even though I may prefer to repeatedly bang my head against the wall,) but afterwards, they will expect me to remember their existence. If we ever speak again, they will be rather disappointed in this area (as explained in my last post).

One person may expect me to meet their eyes when we speak. I, on the other hand, expect for them them be understanding as I avoid eye contact. One person expects me to be respectful of their personal space and not give them a hug so soon after we've met. But I expect them to give me a hug instead of a handshake, which is a bit too standard for my tastes (though I have gotten used to it through speech&debate). Whose expectations are reasonable? Isn't it perfectly reasonable to expect me to meet their eyes, not lick their shoes, and behave in a civilized manner? In fact, we could go even more basic than that. If those expectations aren't reasonable, then isn't it at least reasonable to expect me to actually care about them enough to give them some basic respect, whatever I may consider that respect to be?

I would contend that we ought not to have expectations of others prior to meeting them, however reasonable those expectations may seem. This includes expectations that they will respect you or care about you. Does this mean that I don't care about people that I haven't met? Of course not! But it shouldn't fall into one of their expectations. The reason being that everybody's expectations are different. One person is offended when I don't remember them after small talk, because they expected me to remember them. However, as I explained in my previous post, this isn't for lack of caring about them, but rather because of small talk itself. What seems to them to be a reasonable expectation is, in my case, extremely difficult, if not impossible.

But as I've said before, don't I have my own expectations of people? In a sense, yes. But the reason that I don't tend to grow closer to people who meet me with small talk isn't because they've failed my expectations, it's because I don't know how to grow closer to somebody that I can't remember. I don't reject people who engage in small talk- rather, I try to fight small talk itself. If someone doesn't meet your expectations, the thing to do is not to reject the person, but rather to discuss the expectations themselves. Every person thinks that their own expectations are reasonable, and each person who doesn't meet your expectations thinks that said expectations are unreasonable- even somebody who doesn't care about your existence and doesn't respect you by even their own standards would say that you must earn their respect.

Of course, expectations among friends are reasonable, to some extent. This is because you've had time to discuss expectations and get to know eachother- you know how to behave in a loving manner towards your friends, and they know how to behave in a loving manner towards you. But you can hardly have expectations for somebody that you don't know. Even if they try to meet your expectations, they don't know what those expectations are, because the last person they spoke to may have had completely different expectations. Each person has a reason for doing things the way they do; whether they're right or wrong, you can't expect them to be perfect before you've even met them.
"When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are."
-Donald Miller

No comments:

Post a Comment