People Live In to Your Expectations of Them

A long time ago I worked in a photo lab. One of the secretaries used to remark to me about a particular customer: “I don’t like her, she’s dour, she never smiles, she’s antisocial”.  Sure enough, this person didn’t smile, didn’t chat, was very perfunctory. So I said, “I’m gonna do an experiment. Every time she comes in, I will be social and congenial with her.”

You can imagine what happened; the customer —rather suddenly— changed from someone who never interacted with us to someone who looked forward to popping by so she could share with us about what’s going on in her life. She was lively, enjoyable, friendly, just like anyone else.

It’s easy to see what happened: yes, she reciprocated my friendly posture. But it wasn’t just my posture she returned— she too reciprocated the negative expectations of the secretary. Of course, once the ice was broken, everyone was fine, but what would have it been like had I not done my experiment?

That is the part no one wants to hear: when others show up around us in ways that we don’t like, chances are we share responsibility for it. Our negative consideration of others exacerbate those bothersome traits! This is a confrontative notion… just think of all the flawed people around you— co-workers, bosses, acquaintances, parents, spouses, children—surely this can’t apply to them… or to me! It’s precisely when you bristle that it’s true.

Carefully select how you regard those around you: your assessment will impact their behavior. Seeing that person unfavorably makes it that much harder for them to show up any other way.

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1 Response to People Live In to Your Expectations of Them

  1. Terri says:

    Piognant article. Be the change!

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