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Being happy - stop putting your expectations on others!

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

I recently did a fun interactive session about 'Discovering Opportunities in Unsure Times' at the CILIP Cymru Wales Conference 2019 in Cardiff and I wanted to share with you something I covered - 'putting your expectations on others'.

This isn't specific to career development - it's life related and certainly made a significant difference in my mental health and well being.

Putting our own expectations on others

Do you have that someone in your life that annoys you with things they do? Partner, family, friend, work colleague etc? Maybe they are always late, slurp when they drink, fabricate the truth, don't respond to your messages in a 'timely' manner, don't listen to you when you're talking? Whatever it may be that annoys you - and I mean winds you up - well I hate to break it to you, but you are in control of how it makes you feel and winding yourself up.

A few years ago, I had a change in mindset, one that was so mind blowing and simple, it completely changed my life.

I decided to stop putting my own expectations on other people, let them be accountable for their own actions and then I had the choice as to how I dealt with it. It sounds really simple right? But it was hard to recognise, and incredibly life changing at the same time, and I became a better person for it. I'm more tolerant and patient now - though I'm not a push over, I have my limits but I take a more considered approach to situations now and I know ultimately I have a choice.

So let me give you some examples to put into context:

I often see couples talking to each other in unkind ways and think how exhausting and depressing it must be to be in that state of mind so much:

  • Jessica and Ben are fighting about something - a little unnecessary hurtful remark from Ben and then Jessica retaliates, it then escalates into an argument

  • Claire is irritated that Ruth hasn't put the bins out and Claire has to do it early morning before the bins are collected, or decides to not do it to 'teach Ruth a lesson'

  • Roger is not listening to Joe as he is 'moaning', and Joe gets wound up and hurt

A friend calls me to say that another friend/partner is annoying them:

  • Matt has fabricated the truth or lied again

  • Sissy is always late to dinner parties

  • Frank takes days to respond to messages

  • Carole never commits till the last minute

There are so many examples I could give but ultimately if we didn't put our own expectations on other people about how we think things should be done, and accept them for who they are and what they always do, we can be so much happier. Then you simply have the choice to have them in your life or not. If their behaviour annoys you that much, why continue to entertain them in your life? Don't be friends with them anymore, don't be with them anymore...

Everyone has their good and bad points, it's how we recognise them and use them to our advantage:

  • We don't go out with someone to be the mirror image of ourselves (and if you do - whatever floats your boat!), we have specific wants and needs but that doesn't mean the person has to be perfect, they're unique and special in their own right, as our we. Just because Ben says hurtful remarks, doesn't mean that Jessica has to bite - maybe Ben has always been that way - she has a choice - she tells him it's hurtful and improves the behaviour, she doesn't respond to it, or she ends the relationship because she deserves better and Ben is not going to change. At the end of the day, it's up to Jessica whether she continues to stay in that situation

  • Don't we all forget things, make mistakes, have a lot on our plate, deal with demons inside that no one knows about (e.g. depression)? It's more important we recognise this and help each other out. Why doesn't Claire just put the bins out for Ruth and give her a night off doing the bins - is it really that big an issue? I mean really?

  • Just because we need to have an outlet or certain support, doesn't mean our current partner is the right person to help us. Roger might be brilliant at DIY for example or giving amazing hugs, but is not a great listener when it comes to problems. Joe should speak to someone who is a great listener to be that important outlet and then get Roger to give him a big hug, or put up a shelf... Roger has never been a good listener, so why force him to change - why would he start being that now?

  • Friends aren't like family - we choose to have them in our lives, if they irritate you that much, why continue to be friends with them? Do you tell them they irritate you? Do they know and understand the impact of their behaviour? Tell them. I decided to distance myself from negative people - people who always had to put someone else down - if they do that to my face about other people, then what are they saying behind my back? Other friends I accept them for the way they are - I know Malcolm is always going to be late so I either tell him to come earlier so he ends up coming on time, I don't invite him at all, or I just put food aside for when he does turn up. If he misses a bus we organised to go somewhere, he's a big boy, he can organise to join us in his own time! If a friend doesn't confirm about something and I've given reminders with clear deadlines then that's her choice. Might sound harsh but how are people supposed to learn if they are not accountable for their own actions?

Top takeaways

  • Don't put your expectations on others - they will only disappoint you, accept them for who they are, recognise their usual behaviour, expect what they are going to do and then if they don't do it and do turn up on time for example, you'll be pleasantly surprised!

  • If you don't tell people the issue/impact, how are they supposed to know - I doubt they are physic! You can't get mad at them for not knowing

  • You're as strong as your weakest link - if you're in a team, you need to support each other and not single someone out for their weakness - play on each individual's strengths

  • We all have a choice - stop moaning and start being more proactive! Be that little bit selfish - your time is precious why waste it with those who don't value you and your time?

  • If when your colleague licks the yogurt pot lid at their desk directly opposite you and the noise is like nails on a chalk board - tell them, wear headphones or move desk!

  • The old mindset (self doubt, lack of confidence/self-worth, questioning) creeps in every now again - that's just life but it's how you deal with it that is important.

At the end of the day, it's your choice who you spend your time with and what thoughts fill your head...but that's it, it's your choice.

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