How To Have Zero Expectations From People

Expectation is the root cause of disappointment.

Why do you expect? That’s why you get hurt.

It’s not fair to expect me to do xyz just because you do it for me.

Have you heard these statements before? I sure have. They are senseless statements because humans don’t work that way. We live as a society dependent on each other for several things. It’s all very transactional, even if not always monetary-wise.

Asking someone to not have any expectations of their friends, partner, family, or peers is useless advice at best and a harmful narrative at worst.

When I was younger I was naïve because I believed what people said. I thought you should cross oceans of fire for someone you cared about. The thought of whether they would even light a candle to guide me when I needed never struck me. I didn’t think of relationships of any kind as give and take. But they are. All of them. It’s not even a wrong thing. It’s just how it is.

The remedy to expectations

The only way to “not have expectations” from someone is if you don’t adjust, compromise, or budge from your daily routine, behaviour, or desires for them. That’s the truth. If you do any of those things, no matter how selflessly, it will inevitably hurt when they don’t even think or try to reciprocate the same when roles are reversed.

But like I said before, that’s not possible as a universal truth when you live in a society. So what do we do? We start observing people – how we treat them and how they treat us back.

Now that I have accepted that bitter pill, I have started to objectively see and mentally note what the other person is willing to do for me. Are they willing to celebrate my wins when they don’t have any lately? Are they willing to hear me cry without drowning me in twisted advice? Are they willing to have difficult conversations to fix a misunderstanding or will they use the “busy” excuse and never get to it?

Would you let people get away with 2-star behaviour?

We rate products on Amazon, we rate books on Goodreads, we rate restaurants on Zomato. I know people are human beings but I am going to start rating their behaviour on a 5-point scale. You know why? Because I am done giving 5-star treatment to people who reciprocate with 2-star behaviour.

See, we are inevitably going to have expectations of others; might as well have the right expectations. Once we have assessed that – through their past behaviour – we can set that as the bar and then treat them the same way. Unless it’s unacceptable behaviour or doesn’t align with your personal values.

Let me clarify. For instance, if a friend never shares what they are working towards as goals, I’ll register that and remember to not discuss my plans with them either. Let them find out about my milestones like everyone else on social media. That’s okay with me. As an adult, this behaviour doesn’t bother me as much.

However, if someone was to use what I said to them in confidence to take a jab at me when we are arguing, I wouldn’t do the same. That’s not me. Instead, I’d really consider later if I want them to be in my life moving forward and in what capacity.

Why be a doormat?

If I am being completely transparent here, I have been a pushover. It’s shocking, really, because I am someone who has strong opinions and values and don’t have any issue with articulating those and standing up for them. But you know even such people can become a doormat. That’s because of repeatedly letting people get away their 2-star behaviour.

I used to give people multiple chances because I have an irritating habit of putting myself in other people’s shoes and trying to really see where they are coming from. One would think that would make the other person be apologetic and grateful to an extent where they will make sure to not repeat their shitty behaviour. But guess what? People are twisted.

Instead, they start taking such people for granted because they know that if they mess up again with them, it’s going to be okay. So they keep pushing, they keep trying their luck. They don’t appreciate the understanding and compassion. They take advantage of that. So yeah, this assessment of behaviour is also a preventive step to not unknowingly an innocently become a doormat.

Don’t be insanely calculative

I must clarify that I am not saying to carefully measure every move of the other person’s and retort with the same. It’s not chess. Your friends and others in your social group are not you enemies.

What I mean is, see the bigger picture. If I have a close friend who does offer me emotional support typically but failed to do so the last time because she was dealing with her own stuff it’s not like I am going to hang up on her the next time she is having a 2 am breakdown.

Have expectations just the right ones

Now when I say that you may understand what I mean. Hence, forgive me for the title of this piece. Zero expectations are unrealistic. The right ones are on us to assess and set.

There’s no joy in being the more loving, compromising, or adjusting one in any relationship. Let the affection and the effort be close to equal. That’s my take on this topic.

Do you agree, disagree, half-agree? Let me know. Also feel free to share any of your experiences where you felt like you were not being treated in the same way you were treating a specific someone.

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