To put is simply, expectation theory says that when things work out better than we had thought, it makes us happy; and when things turn out worse than we thought, it makes us unhappy. Happy people seem to intuitively sense this, and because their general expectations of life are more modest, life tends to afford them more pleasantries than disappointments.
So far, however, we’ve only been talking about expectations of events. But there are two other, highly conspicuous, categories where high expectations lead to major disappointment.
The first of these is high expectations of others…
Disappointing events are things that most of us can live with, but when people disappoint us, it’s often hard to take. As bitter as these disappointments are, however, often they are caused by the high expectations we place on others. Other people’s behavior can be terribly disappointing for those who expect too much. Many times we tend to expect others to behave in ways that are almost super-human. We expect them to treat us fairly, we trust that they will be honest, we count on their loyalty, we demand their constant allegiance, and we take for granted their love. But to expect others to treat us with unyielding fairness, honesty, loyalty, allegiance, and love is a sure-fire prescription for disappointment.
In previous media, I’ve put it this way: “If you make your happiness dependent upon the way other people treat you, you’ll never be happy” (tapes). What I’ve meant by that is that happiness comes primarily from within. Surely, close relationships with others contribute to it, but others should not be responsible for it.
To expect other people to behave in ways that will make you happy is an expectation that is rarely attainable, and thus often leads to disappointment. Happy people, as we shall see in later chapters, depend more on themselves than others for their happiness. As much happiness as they attain from their social life, happy people don’t depend on others to get them through life. Rather than expecting a lot from others, happy people just enjoy other people as they are.