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A few months ago, I was going to office at around 9:30am, earlier than my reporting time so that I could leave from there at 6:30pm- my regular working hours being 11am-6:30pm – in order to attend a concert later on that Friday night. An uncompensated compromise that is often necessary while slogging it out in the corporate world. However, on my way to work, I happened to have a fainting attack in the train. The lovely women in the Mumbai Local were more than helpful, gave me some chocolate and water, called for some help for me and one girl even got down with me at Mahim Station and sat with me until the she was sure I was okay. I didn’t feel too well to go to work after, so I decided to go home. I’d left my laptop at office the previous evening since I knew I wouldn’t be working at home and I’d be coming back early the next day anyway. I rang my senior to let her know that I wouldn’t be able to make it to work that day, explaining the circumstances of my absence. She seemed to understand and told me to rest it out. Later that evening, I got a call from her telling me that she’d be sending my laptop over with a co-worker and I should collect it from him in order to work over the weekend. I agreed since the deadlines were tight. However, when I went to collect my laptop from my co-worker the next morning, he asked me to tell him what really happened. I was perplexed. I narrated the fainting-in-the-train incident. He told me that my senior was sure that I was bunking work in order to go for my concert and I’d left my laptop at office purposely so that I wouldn’t have to work over the weekend. If only I were that cunning. I was absolutely furious. And that incident, combined with various, more significant factors such as absolutely hating the work, marked the beginning of the end of my time with that organization.

Now that I’ve happily left that organization in my past and the bitterness has died down, well, mostly at least, I’ve given this incident and my senior another thought, this time in a much calmer frame of mind. My senior, though not usually mean, could be quite cunning and manipulative when she wanted her way. If she wanted to get out one night and avoid working over the weekend, she would have done exactly what I had. Only, her story would have been fabricated instead. And because that’s what she would have done, she naturally assumed that’s what I had done. As much as I disliked her for it, it made me realise one thing- we expect others to act in a particular situation, the way we would react in the same.

After having spent a considerable amount of time with ourselves, we tend to be decently, if not perfectly, self-aware. We know how we are going to react in a particular situation, if not consciously, then subconsciously which materializes in the form of our expectations from other people when they are in the said situation. We tend to do the same things to make other people happy as we would like done for us, we console the same way we would like to be consoled, we judge as we would judge ourselves, we help as we would like to helped, give as we would like to be given and vice versa. We use the same yardstick to measure others as we would use for ourselves. Sure, this does not apply to those close relations where you know the other person nearly as well as you know yourself. But in life, the close relations we make are few and with most people with whom we aren’t well acquainted, we expect them to act as we would. And it is only natural to do so.

A lot is spoken about emotional expectations nowadays. On how we shouldn’t expect people to be there for us, how we shouldn’t expect to get as much as we give into any relationship, how we shouldn’t expect any sort of reciprocation- all in an effort to minimize the inevitable hurt. However, one does not have to delve that deep to see the problems caused by contradictory expectations of actions. The expectations of actions are often the reasons teams fail. For taste- A likes to divide the work when it is assigned to a team and work entirely on his portion, undisturbed, until he is done and then he is able to move on to collaborating with others. That’s the way he reacts to work being assigned to him as a member of a group. He is teamed up with B and C. And A, without quite realising it, expects his co-workers to divide the work and get started. However, he soon comes to realise that B isn’t quite enthusiastic about dividing the work so fast. B likes to work together and make joint decisions. C doesn’t mind working individually as long as he can run his work regularly by his co-workers. Now, these three have a conflict because they all react differently to a particular situation and expect the others to act the same way they would. What are they supposed to do now?

Like every problem, this problem of expectations also has a solution. And taking into account the various factors at play in every situation, I have arrived, by experience, at three possible solutions. Being the Financial Management student that I am, I have classified them into Conservative, Moderate and Aggressive Approaches. In the Conservative Approach, one person succumbs to the others expectation and does as is expected from him. This usually occurs when the two people have different levels of power and control, one being able to influence the other, either through persuasion or intimidation. The Moderate Approach advocates being assertive and arriving at a compromise which maybe a win-win or a lose-lose situation, based on one’s perception. This occurs when all parties consider themselves equals. The Aggressive Approach takes the Moderate Approach one step further when both the parties refuse to collaborate through even slight change of expectations. This solution is usually only temporary and leads to further issues.

Is there something that can be done to change something which has been so deeply etched into our sub-conscience? We measure and do everything for others as we would like to be done for us. If we expect people to judge us based on our intelligence or beauty, we tend to judge them on the same basis. It is something we do every time we are with other people, whether we like it or not, whether we realise it or not. Lowering expectations is something which comes with practice and action. If we stopped expecting others to act as we would, would be expect them to expect us to stop acting as they would? That just defeats the whole purpose though, doesn’t it? The aim should be to stop expecting from others, gradually and eventually, not immediately. We should move towards from expectations to acceptance, I believe. Do you accept?