Recently, I’ve been vividly reminded of a lesson I’ve known for years, yet it’s worth revisiting: it’s unrealistic and unwise to expect your own behaviors, performance, and reactions from others. This isn’t about superiority or arrogance; it’s a recognition of our individual differences. Everyone reacts and performs in their unique way, especially true in new ventures, whether business or personal. Furthermore, a person’s actions (and reactions) are driven by countless things that have almost nothing to do with your desire for them.
Expecting others to align with our schedules or to respond with the same urgency or detail we would is a recipe for disappointment. This expectation can strain interactions and set them up for failure. If only there were a simple solution to this nearly universal human tendency, which, interestingly, seems to intensify under stress. Perhaps the key lies in managing stress better.
A friend of mine, wise from our metaphorical “thousand years” of friendship, often says, “never borrow trouble,” suggesting we shouldn’t anticipate the worst. This advice echoes the principle of Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. In other words, when trying to understand why someone acted in a certain way, it’s often more reasonable to consider ignorance or lack of understanding rather than assuming malicious intent. This razor encourages us to avoid jumping to conclusions about ill intentions and instead consider simpler explanations rooted in human fallibility but could (and in my opinion, should) be extended to include conflicting or differing motivations.
It’s an important distinction to make, particularly when stress levels are high, and we might feel like we’re operating at maximum capacity. While stress can sometimes boost my (and maybe yours) productivity, it’s a reminder that in any collaborative effort, we can’t control every variable. Accepting that can lead to healthier interactions and more productive relationships.
Establishing clear expectations is crucial for any healthy relationship, be it professional or personal. Setting clear boundaries regarding timelines, the level of detail expected, and how information should be exchanged can significantly improve communication. Creating a sort of “communication contract” can lay the groundwork for successful collaboration and planning, ensuring all parties are on the same page and reducing potential stress and misunderstanding.
At the end of the day (to use one of the most overused lead-ins to a closing, ever), the essence of navigating our expectations of others lies in embracing the diversity of human behavior and communication styles. It’s a journey towards understanding and accepting that each person operates according to their unique set of experiences, perspectives, and motivations. The realization that we cannot, and should not, expect others to mirror our ways of working or responding is liberating. It opens the door to more empathetic and flexible interactions, fostering a culture of mutual respect and understanding. By setting clear, realistic expectations and engaging in open, respectful communication, we can avoid many of the pitfalls that come with misplaced expectations. Cultivating this mindset is not just about reducing personal or professional stress—it’s about enriching our relationships and creating more meaningful connections. So, as we march on, let’s make it a point to celebrate everyone’s quirks and qualities. Remember, it’s not about everyone marching in step; it’s about the colorful, wonderful mess we make when we all do our own thing. That’s where the magic happens.