If you think about it, our expectations and the assumptions we make have a huge impact on how we deal with and react to things. I have a friend who expects people to do the wrong thing and to not follow through on things. That way she is pleasantly surprised when someone gets something done or does do the right thing, whatever that may be. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and expect people will do the right thing but then are disappointed or frustrated when they don’t. I’m not sure if it’s better to go through life being a pessimist or an optimist, but there are probably plusses and minuses to both. Maybe somewhere in the middle would be the best choice? I think your expectations affect how you carry yourself, how you interpret situations, how you speak to and treat other people, and ultimately how other people view you.
If you expect to not have a good time in an unfamiliar environment or around new people, you probably won’t. If you expect that your kids are going to misbehave, then they probably will. If you are a suspicious person who expects the worst in people, you will probably be snooping around looking for things that show signs of mistrust. If you assume someone else is always trying to imply something negative no matter what they say, you are probably going to respond with sarcastic or snippy comments. Believe me, I am speaking from experience on these last two, having been on the receiving end of it. Nothing is more frustrating than constantly feeling like I’m being accused of something that I am not doing. I get tired of trying to convince others I didn’t do or say what they thought. I wish all those negative assumptions weren’t there.
On the other hand, if you have a positive attitude and expectations and don’t make assumptions, then that is reflected in your body language and tone of voice, and other people will respond to you more positively. And your kids just might behave because they are not sensing your negative expectations, or you might have a good time at a get-together because you appear more approachable.
I think letting kids know what your expectations are is the first of four things you need to do in order to teach them appropriate behavior. Even saying things in a way that communicates your expectations is important. For example, saying “You need to walk near the pool” is letting them know what you expect of them, whereas “Don’t run” leaves them with the thought of running in their heads. Modeling whatever desired behavior is the second key element as well, as kids will more likely copy what you do and not what you say, unless they are one in the same. The third thing is to catch them doing the expected behavior and praise or reward them for it. Lastly, you need to respectfully point out when they are not, or possibly give them a consequence, depending on the behavior.
The bottom line is that we need to consciously think about our expectations and the assumptions we may be making. It is always better to give people the benefit of the doubt and go into situations with positive expectations. Easier said than done though, I know. I am working on it.
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