Expectation: the hidden agenda of listening

I was sent a piece the other day about managing others’ expectation of me (and of course, mine of them). It inspired a thought for me which was that we all expect to be listened to when we talk At the very least it is common courtesy is it not? Yet how many of us feel heard? How often do we feel the person who is listening to us, professionally or personally, is thinking about something else? When we feel that no-one listens to us we can often feel frustrated.


So much of our frustration and resentment is born out of unmet expectations of those around us – family, friends, colleagues.

Expectation is the root of all heartache – William Shakespeare

One solution is to lower one’s expectations – this works if you are realistic. So to give you an example – I know a couple of people whom I care about struggle with timekeeping – so instead of expecting them to always be on time – I either realistically assume they will be late or I give them a time to leave/arrive that factors in time to faff about! This is commonly known as managing expectations and involves you changing your expectations rather than the other person changing their behaviour.

Let’s take listening as another example. If you feel that someone never listens to you then you might manage your expectations by not talking to them because you feel it’s pointless to do so. You might also change your behaviour – getting angry, talking over them or refusing to listen to them?

What if there was another way to change your behaviour (since that is the only behaviour you can change). What, if in the case of listening you could do something that helped them listen better to others?

Let’s start with a question: When did you truly listen to someone else? Uninterrupted by your words or thoughts; only listening to their words with a curious mind.

Listening to others

Everyone behaves in the way we expect them to – if we expect someone to be calm and confident they often are. If we expect them to be chaotic they seem that way too. What if we expected ourselves to listen to others and changed our behaviour accordingly?  A strange thing that happens when we listen to others fully. They open up, they connect with us and they start to trust us. When we build trust they return it and they grow.

If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you what you are capable of becoming; I help you become that. – Goethe

In most cases, the person we are listening to, when they feel heard, they start to change their expectations of us and of others. They might realise that someone cares enough to listen. They may begin to change their own behaviours.

NB: There is a caveat – be aware of your boundaries and listen to your intuition with regards to how much you want to empty your cup for others.

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