No expectations

Do you have someone in your life who perceives any disagreement as a personal attack, a request for compromise as you "being difficult", or a defence of your point of view as "aggression"? ...

Jeez, I hope not because it's exhausting, time-consuming, frustrating, maddening ... I could go on, but that's not what I'd like to discuss today. Instead, let's talk about coping strategies.

Often the person I've described above can be an intimate - which raises the question: why do you put up with it? Why not just walk away and leave them to percolate in their own miserable little world?

Because, often you cannot, I hear you say.

If the person is a relative or work colleague, you're often bound to them and, though you can try to limit your interactions, sometimes you have to deal with them. Sometimes you're forced to drink from their poisoned well.


Well, maybe not.

When I come up against knotty problems like this, I turn to my mate the Jewish Hotrod, a bloke who's made it his life's work to understand happiness and how he can achieve that state at least some of the time.

Our conversation on this subject went something like this.


"OK, OK, I got some pretty cool shit for you here, so you ready?" he said.

"Yep," I replied.

"I've asked myself this question many times: 'How do I deal with people who not only want to stop me from doing something, but they actually get a kick out of stopping me?'"

"Oh, yeah."

"How do I rationally deal with someone who is irrational? How do I logically communicate with someone who is illogical and how do I remain unmoved by a person who constantly makes me suffer but also actually gets some kind of twisted satisfaction from my pain?"

"I think that about covers it."

"So here it is, this is what I've got for you."

"You're so dramatic."

"Expect nothing. Do not lower your expectations as to how this person should behave. Remove them altogether. Enter in to each and every interaction with them as though you're dealing with a person with brain damage or a severe mental health issue."

"Probably some truth in that."

"Maybe. You wouldn't be surprised if a profoundly disabled or disturbed person said something to you that was hurtful or they acted in a way that violated you - because they know no different."


"So that's how you've got to be with these other sorts of people. Expect nothing. Don't condescend to them, just expect nothing. Not rationality, not compromise, certainly not kindness, not even simple politeness. More to the point, don't be surprised when you get the exact opposite of those things," he said.

So that's what I've been doing and, I gotta say, it's been kind of liberating.

I think much of what makes us unhappy in general is unrealistic expectations - whether they be in our career, relationships, fitness or the size of our birthday cake. However, when we modify them, reduce their grandeur just a little, our disappointment at not meeting them is less pronounced.

And when you have no expectations at all - hell, how can you be let down?

Obviously, if you want to achieve anything in life, you can't walk around having no expectations of yourself but, if you simply apply this principle to one or two problematic relationships, I don't see the harm. In fact I've already reaped the benefits.

In some ways, this advice reminds me of James Altuchers' words on "How to Deal With Crappy People" except that you can't just ignore this type of person, as he suggests, because they're embedded in your life; you have to deal with them.

And that's the problem.

I hope this post offers you the beginnings of a solution.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here. His email address is here.