The Hidden Opportunity in Low Expectations

I’m a people pleaser. I care deeply about what certain people think about me. 

For a long time, I used to pretend, told myself, I was the type of person that didn’t care what others thought of me.

But anytime there was conflict or a simple criticism I would start to slowly replay it in my head to the point where I’d ruminate on what I could have done differently. It made me realize that I did care and I had been lying to myself. 

I’ve been working on embracing this trait.

Doing so has helped me stop fighting against it with self-deceit. It’s allowed me to learn how to harness it. So I can become aware of when to use it for the better or notice when it fills me with shame and helplessness and question why.

By leaning into this personality trait, I’ve found an endless amount of easy opportunities to make a difference in someone’s day. And being the social creatures we are, these are opportunities to build tighter bonds with the people in our community and tribes (and if I’m being frank, I love the feeling of knowing I have the power to impact someone’s day for the better).

It’s a power we all have. And it’s surprisingly simple.

All it requires is that you pay attention to the low hanging fruit around you. These are the opportunities that exist in our day-to-day where the expectation of a moment is so low, that a slight positive deviation from that expectation could lead to a pleasant surprise.

In a world of back-to-back video conference calls, no one expectes you to have a positive upbeat and energetic attitude. But doing so can completely alter the interaction for the better and garner greater engagement. 

When you speak to a call center rep, they don’t expect you to be delightful. Most people probably yell at them or express their disappointment. Imagine the level of service you’d get if you surprised them and talked to them as you would a dear friend; if you showed interest, excitement and a willingness to partner with them towards a solution.

Imagine being a co-worker or client in need of assistance only to get your automatic out-of-office reply. They expect the standard corporate boilerplate robot response. They don’t expect a message indicating you are at Space Camp or on a pirate adventure or something playful and farcical in addition to who can assist in your absence. But imagine if that’s what they got? Sure, you aren’t there to help them, but there is still opportunity to fold delight into an otherwise boring and unmemorable moment. 

There are many opportunities like these where the expectation of the interaction is low. These are the gems to look for, the opportunities that are ripe to transform an experience. These are the moments to create surprise and delight because neither are part of the expected outcome.

And it’s an opportunity to practice serving others from a place of joy. Not because you have to, but because you get to. It’s an opportunity to remind others that there are good things in this life and we all have the power to create these moments. 

It’s what makes us human. 

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