Dropping Expectations

We tend to start any interaction with our fellow co-humans based on certain expectations. This is true especially for long-term private relationships as well as for business environments. What would happen if we dropped our expectations and interacted without any Interpretation of our counterpart’s reactions?

Starting from my personal experiences, I suggest to skip any specific expectation regarding the reaction of your conversational partner for a week or so, be it in private or in business environments. Here’s the result of my own anecdotal experiment:

Every time we plan a meeting with a (potential) business partner or client, we arrange everything pretty carefully in advance. We create a presentation, we have a tested storyline which should be open to scrutiny. We have put ourselves in the other’s shoes and have determined where she “perceives pain”. One very positive effect of this preparation is that we ourselves think everything through once again. Quite often, we have an even better understanding of our own story after these training sessions.

An yet, when it comes to D-day, an important presentagion or pitch, there is this strange feeling afterwards: the meeting took a very different course than we expected. Even if it was considered a success, e.g. we won the pitch or agreed on the favored cooperation, something during the conversation happened which changed our plan and made major parts of our preparation useless.

Let’s assume that 50% of the above mentioned preparation is well invested since it adds to our own understanding of things. In this case, the other 50% are wasted time, since reality never adapts to our plan and we have to improvise anyway. Unless we don’t assume that we need to be prepared in order to being able to improvise, we should skip the “how-will-the-conversation-run” part altogether. 

Last week, I did exactly that: I did not plan my business meeting minutes (beside being prepared and knowing my stuff) and dropped my respective expectations on everybody. 

What happened? The bottom line is that nothing really happened. All meetings went in the same way as before, with one difference: I wasn’t surprised at any moment. There was no expectation from my side which could stay un-matched or over-accomplished. You might argue that I can’t know whether expectations haven’t been met unless I had some. Right – my indicator for that are the reactions of my business partners after I told them about the meetings and their outcomes. They don’t actively participate in my experiment and that enables me to create an A/B test situation: they unknowingly act as my control group (hopefully they don’t mind if they read this).

Thanks to my control group I know what “we” expected and how I would have been surprised in normal circumstances.

In my private environment I don’t have this kind of control group and it’s much more difficult to drop expectations. I won’t elaborate on details but the results seem to be the same as in business: not expecting a certain order of events or behavior if my conversational partner makes conversations easier, lighter and more open. No disappointmemts here.

What’s my learning from this week of dropped expectations?

In conversations with friends and family it teally “makes the difference”: since the quality of conversations and interactions have improved significantly, I’ll stick to the new “rule” and will try yo drop all expectations. To be clear – this will be a process with recurrent slips. I’m willing to try it as often as possible until not having expectations will become a habit.

In my business environment I’ll try to separate my necessary preparation of meetings and conversations from any planning and anticipation of my counterpart’s reactions. If I succeed in doing so, I’ll optimize my time spent and my well-being. Dropping expectations could be one of the most efficient techniques of lifestyle optimization without any negative side effects.

I would love to hear about your experiences: have you already tried dropping your expectations or don’t you have any at all?


3 Comments Add yours

  1. J. says:

    Expectations arises out of our attitudes and ideas. They are based on our experiences, both: good and bad. There are countless situations in which they determine our behavior and perception. Often they are closely related to our opponent and his behavior. Interaction with people may be food and enemy of our expectations.

    A happy and well-balanced person has basically lower expectations.
    But: are expectations per se a bad thing? Are they our stumbling blocks or are they our mirror in which we recognise our fears and wishes? Do they sometimes help us to recognise what is important to us?
    Nothing to expected is in most cases better and often the way with the most beautiful surprises.
    But a life without expectations? How would it look like if we have no expectations for the behavior of our counterparts? What would be our values ​​and manners? Anyway, it seems to be a question of the same eye level.

  2. J. wrote
    “But a life without expectations? How would it look like if we have no expectations for the behavior of our counterparts? What would be our values ​​and manners? ”

    I’ve tried to answer these questions with my experiment. I’m not trying to find answers on a theoretical level but more in a practical sense. For me it works: I take it as it comes. No expectations, or: the less, the better.

    1. jnpfa says:

      Expect the unexpected

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