Hello, everybody! You are listening to the 17th episode of Sensibly Happy podcast. This episode is about how to manage your expectations to stop getting disappointed when people don’t pay your kindness back.
You have probably asked yourself: “what makes one person more successful than another?” And this is a really valid question. Because if it’s something which we can control, we can use it in our daily life and be more successful as well. I’m convinced that there are some reusable ingredients of success. In this episode we are talking about the ways to manage your expectations so that you can do good things and never feel disappointed when people don’t pay your kindness back.
A special episode for you
Welcome to the Sensibly Happy podcast! Here you can get the ideas, pieces of advice on how to be happier in your daily life. And this episode is a special one! It is for you, kind people, ones who do good things to others. If you’re not one of those, stop listening right now.
Let’s talk about the cases when you do something good, but then receive nothing in return from others; about that injustice and irresponsibility of others. Do you know that feeling when a person lets you down? When you expect something from a person, but it doesn’t happen? Of course, you do. How often do those disappointments happen to you? Do you think it will stop someday and everything will be fine and fair? It will not stop! People will always let you down. Are they bad? No. It’s because of your perception. It’s not because people are bad. It’s because of the way you treat different situations. You might think, “What’s wrong with it?” How does my perception relate to the irresponsibility of others?” Do you know how to deal with that and be happier interacting with others? If you’d like to know that, then continue listening!
Reasons for our disappointment
It is a common practice, that if you do something, you will get something in return. Society tells us that we should do good things, and we will be rewarded for that; treat others the way that we want to be treated, and it’s a good approach. By doing that, we make this world better! Such an approach forces us to do good things up front.
But the problem is that we often get a reward from the source we don’t expect, or we are rewarded too late. And this is the main reason for our disappointment. We expect the rewards from the same person for whom we tried to do something good. Like, if I’m doing something good for this exact person, the person should pay me back somehow, by doing me the same favour or sharing with me some special resources, or at least being grateful and showing it.
Why do we expect something from others?
But why do we expect that from other people? Why by doing something good, we expect that the person will pay us back? Actually, we have more than one reason to think like that.
1. A person owes you already
For instance, the person owes you a lot already. You made a lot of different favours for the person, you spent a lot of time for the person, or you helped that person several times already. And of course, if you did that, it’s an obvious thing the person owes you.
2. It’s a common practice
The second reason why you could expect something from a person is that it’s a common practice to think that a person will behave the way you expect. For instance, if I help to open a door for someone, I expect to hear “thank you” in return.
3. If a person asks for something, s/he is ready to pay
Or if a person asks you something, you might think that the person who asks you that something already understands that it’s a favour, that you should spend some efforts on it. And of course, the person is more likely to know already how he or she can pay you back. In simple words, when a person asks you something, it’s the same as a person is signing some kind of contract that he or she has to pay back.
Is it good to have such a perception?
There could also be other ideas or thoughts. And most likely, you already had such understanding of the situation. No doubts, having such perception, you are ready to do good things, and you expect to return something without discussing it with the recipient, and you do good things. Is it good to behave in such a proper manner?
Examples to show you how it works
I will share with you several stories to show how it could harden us. And then we will discuss how we can protect ourselves from being disappointed.
Story 1: Starting a business with the wrong partner
The first story is about starting one of my businesses. I don’t want to go deep into details of the business; it was a single retail store. I’ve decided to get two more partners into that business. And the plan was that each partner would give an equal part of the investment. And after starting the business, each one would play some specific role in the business and would make some efforts. So it was an equal distribution in terms of money and terms of responsibilities and duties. We agreed on that approach and started a business. But it happened that one of the partners didn’t have enough money to invest. We heard a story that, at that moment, his money were frozen in some place, and he would take that money back in several months. We thought that he could be a good part of the team and we decided to work with him on the condition that he would give his part of investments later.
We set up a business, inventory, marketing, hired employees, and the store was brought to life. At one moment, that partner started having troubles with his wife. Of course, no details about that. But in general, I was a person who listened to all those stories, spending my own time, I would say, taken from my family. I was giving him different pieces of advice. And it looked like he had used my advice and shared with me some of his successes with his wife. I was happy helping him because it was beneficial for both of us. I was thinking, “If he becomes happier, he will be grateful to me, and he will care more about our shared business. And of course, in case of troubles, he will remember what I did for him and be more open for some negotiations, in case of any.”
Then, he got some financial troubles and asked whether he could get some money from the cash register and was it possible to get more money from our business for a shorter period. You should understand: he was spending a lot of time on our business, as well as each of us. But he still hadn’t made the initial investment.
And suddenly, one day, when I came to our store to check numbers, I noticed that some money was missing from our cash register. I asked our seller about that, and she told me that our partner came the day before and took some money. And when I called him, trying to understand what was going on, I got plenty of reasons why he needed more money and so on. After some arguing on that he shouldn’t do things like that without a preliminary arrangement, he answered that if I were going to continue talking to him in such manner, he would not return the borrowed money.
There were tough negotiations before we split apart and closed the business. But the main question for me at that moment was, “How a person can act like that? How can I be so kind, do good things and then get such a result in return?” To be honest, it cracked my world. Anyone of you can tell right now that it was just a bad partner, and I should organize a better selection of people with whom I want to work, but I can assure you, you’ll never know. Similar perception is to think that I’m the smartest one and no one will fool me. You never know!
Story 2: Equipping a new store
The second story is about creating a store and sharing the premises with another team. It was the same store as in the previous story, but one day we decided to change the location. We found a good place, but the premises were too big for it. So, we decided to move there together with another team that was also selling similar products but from a different group.
There was a need in a small renovation for the premises, and we were arranging who should do what for the premises before moving all the inventory there. And I showed a good will and told me that I was able to paint the walls. So, together we can prepare the premises, and I can paint the wall because I like it and I can do it. And I did that: I prepared those walls, and I painted those, as well as I made other small improvements for the premises. Finally, it appeared that I was the only person who did that much for the premises and we moved there.
After some time, when we decided to close our business, we still had different equipment for the store, which was really needed by the other team that we shared our premises with, let’s say, our partners. And it was logical to offer them to buy all that equipment at a lower price. And we did that. The equipment was almost you, but we set our price 50% off to make a quick deal. We needed to take our money back from the business, and of course, the other team which decided to continue staying on the premises. They needed that equipment because they didn’t have their own and used ours.
But when we started negotiating the price, they suggested the price ten times less than the original one! Not 50% off as we expected in the beginning, but ten times less! I gave them different arguments. And one of those was, “Guys, I even painted walls for you! Why are you doing that to us? You know that we need the money, and you will not get such equipment on the market for the price that we offer you.” And the answer was, “You know, Max, you told us that you liked to paint, that’s why you painted those walls, and that’s why this argument is not valid.” It was another big disappointment in my life. Why can people behave like that? Why, knowing that we have a tough situation, that we need to return borrowed money, and we were good to them all the time. Why did they do that to us? Why did they want to squeeze us?
Story 3: Birthday congratulations
The third story is not as emotional as the previous two, but it also shows how we can expect something in return. I know the person who has some rules related to greetings on birthdays. The first rule is to congratulate close friends and relatives in the first half of the day. With that approach, the person shows that those other people are important to her. Actually, this is the only rule. But the thing is that if somebody from her close friends or relatives doesn’t congratulate her on her birthday, I mean, if greatness would be postponed to another day, then that person gets really upset and offended, “How so? I’m so attentive to their birthdays, but they are not giving me the same in return!”
Is there a good reason to expect a reward?
All those stories show some kind of injustice. Injustice when you do something, and you expect something in return, but you don’t get it. If you don’t have the agreement, why do you think that a person will do what you expect? Why do you think that? Do you think that the person can read your mind? Do you think that all the people around you apply the same rules to their lives? Or do you think they noticed and counted everything good you did to them? Do you understand that different people think differently, not like you, way more different than you? Of course, you could be synchronized with some of your friends on some specific topic, but we are all different. And that’s why this world is so colourful and interesting.
Do we think differently?
What are possible ways of thinking of the person who doesn’t return you something back? Imagine the person whom you gave something or did something good or useful. That person, or recipient, could have the following scenarios:
1. You have excessive amounts of something
First of all, a recipient could think, “Well, she gave me this because there’s plenty of it. And it’s worth nothing for the person. I don’t need to give something in return. Because I’ve saved the person from an excess of this resource.” For instance, that person had plenty of time, and it was a pleasure or entertainment to speak with me about my troubles.
2. I’ll pay back someday in the future
Or an alternative recipient thought, “Someday, I will give it back when I have such an opportunity.” But the person doesn’t recognize such opportunities. So, that recipient understands that s/he have got favour and thinks that someday s/he will return it, but that day never comes.
3. The recipient doesn’t notice your effort, or they are useless to him/her
Also, a recipient sometimes doesn’t notice that s/he have received something, and there’s no need to give it back. For instance, during one conversation you listened to a lot of complaints from a person, and then you gave some advice. It wasn’t interesting for you to listen to all of that, but you spent your time and energy and gave a piece of advice. But the recipient was very upset about his/her feelings and walked away continuing complaining and finding a new person as a listener. So, you’ve become one of the elements in the chain of listeners, or your doings were just not useful for the person, even if you are confident that you’ve brought a big value.
4. There’s no request from a recipient
Also, there could be a case when the recipient didn’t ask you for that favour, and even if you gave something, he or she thinks that your sharing is your problem.
You should arrange your expectations in advance
Of course, there are other cases similar to those. But all of them show that sometimes, or often, people don’t think the same way as you are. How to save yourself from such misunderstandings in the future? You should arrange your expectations upfront with a person, or not expect anything in return at all. Otherwise, you will be upset again and again.
I’ll repeat, you should arrange your expectations with that person in advance, or you should fully accept that you will not get anything in return. I understand that this is not a common practice for you to arrange something in advance, but you should change yourself, or you will be punished by life over and over again. And after knowing and understanding what I’ve just said, you cannot complain or blame any more other people, except cases when you already had an arrangement, but the recipient did not comply with conditions.
Your task for the next week
- Step one: Recall two different cases from your life when you did something good to another person but didn’t receive anything good in return, and it hurt you somehow.
- The second step: Imagine: what would be the best arrangement in a similar situation? How should the deal look like?
- The third step: Analyze whether you have cases right now when you give something to another person. How can you save yourself from negative emotions in the future if the person will turn his/her back on you? Decide: should you make an arrangement, or should you accept the future when you’ll get nothing from the person like you did nothing good?