The Rule of Expectations

I’ve never been afraid of public speaking. In fact, I always liked the rush of having to address an audience. The only time this wasn't true, was when I had to speak in a policy analysis class in grad school. My professor was incredibly critical and would give me such harsh feedback that I always walked away feeling slightly less competent. So every time I had to make a speech in her class, I could feel my blood pressure rising. And needless to say, no matter how good I got at policy analysis, I was never my most authentic self in that class – which of course meant, I was only bringing a small part of myself to the game.

The power that that professor had over me is an example of The Rule of Expectation. The Rule of Expectation says that individuals tend to make decisions based on how others expect them to perform. In other words, we subconsciously conform to the stereotypes people project on us. And it’s my personal belief that this is only true if we are not consciously monitoring our thoughts….because we are not sheep.

Several studies support The Rule of Expectations. In one study, researchers at Harvard found that when teachers were told that a randomly selected group of students are expected to do exceptionally well, their expectation of these students rose, and those students ended up outperforming their peers.

You might be a little skeptical right now. Does how others expect us to behave really affect us that much? Think about how you behave around your parents vs. how you behave around your friends. And if that doesn’t resonate, think about how you’ve behaved in situations where you weren’t quite sure of what the other person thought of you. Your behavior probably changed according to what you thought was being expected of you.

Fortunately, we can use the Rule of Expectations to our advantage because it can help us influence how others behave around us. And I don't mean that in a manipulative way, I actually think we can use it to help others guage how to treat us. You know how some people walk into a room and have an aura you respect? That’s them expecting that the world approach them with respect. How about people that radiate joy. Is it as obvious to you as it is to me that those people simply expect the world to greet them with good things?

And best of all, after learning about the rule of expectation, I had to ask myself what my self-imposed expectations were, regardless of what external cues I was being fed. Do I expect myself to be distracted by new people, places, and things or do I expect myself to have unwavering focus? Do I expect myself to succeed in my pursuits? Or do I expect to second guess my goals and back off on my dreams?

It is one thing to say you are a winner. It is entirely another to expect yourself to behave like one.