I was fortunate enough to spend eight days in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, last winter. I have been there a number of times and I feel peaceful and at home every time I am there. I went with a good friend of mine and while we were there we were greeted with nothing but smiles and good cheer from everyone we interacted with.
At a particular restaurant on the beach, we were greeted politely by the waitress when we first got to our table, but by the time we left we received hugs and kisses on the cheek. When we went back three days later we were greeted like old friends. The waitress sat down with us every chance she got so we could have a chance to get to know each other better. Before we left we received more hugs and kisses while she tried to talk us into coming back one more time before we left town. What a warm, wonderful experience. Please note: this is a busy beach side restaurant that has people coming and going all day and evening long.
When we were leaving that same restaurant we heard a group of people standing outside the premises talking about how rude everyone who worked there was. How could that group have such a different experience than we did? The only answer I can come up with is expectations. My friend and I walked in expecting to have a positive experience and that’s exactly what we received.
I try to approach the world with a smile and with the expectation that I will receive the same back. It really never occurs to me that anyone will react in any way except positively. I do occasionally notice that people are a little startled when I smile at them as they pass me on the street. Sometimes they actually seem a little leery about someone smiling at them for no reason. I find that sad for them, but it’s not going to stop me.
On a recent First Friday, there was an opening for the art display I have at a hair salon in the art district of Kansas City. I didn’t let very many people know about the opening, because I didn’t expect it to be a very big deal. I went alone to the salon and as I was walking towards the building, I was a bit shocked to see people streaming in and out of the salon. I squared my shoulders, walked in, introduced myself and started shaking hands with whoever was near me. There was a small, but steady stream of people the whole evening. I got great feedback on my work, and even though I was exhausted, I was elated by all the positive comments I’d heard. I may have started the evening with low expectations about the attendance, but once I saw I was dealing with a larger number of people, I expected nothing but good things to come from the opening.
I know plenty of people who only expect the worst. They wake up every day dreading what’s ahead and knowing that nothing will go right for them. They seem to be always looking for the rain cloud instead of the rainbow. I believe that, for the most part, we receive what we expect to receive. If you expect good things from people, you will receive good things from people. If you expect negativity, that’s what you receive.
This does not mean I go through life with blinders on. I still listen to my gut and follow my instincts. If someone or somewhere doesn’t feel right, I respect that instinct and get out of the situation as quickly as I can. I understand there are people who, for whatever reason, do not feel safe in the world and respond by reaching out with aggression. I am very sorry for these people and can only imagine what happened to make them feel the way they do. In the meantime, I avoid these people, and the places where they tend to gather, whenever possible.
The other phenomenon that makes me shake my head is people who are constantly berating themselves. I understand and appreciate a little self deprecating humor, but people who constantly refer to themselves as “stupid” or “dumb” befuddle me. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and everyone makes mistakes.
To this day, I will still occasionally catch myself going into self-criticism. I’ll forget something or drop something and I will start to tell myself how stupid that was. After years of working on the awareness of my self-talk, I now catch myself almost instantly and tell myself I’m not stupid, I simply made a mistake. The difference in how that feels is amazing. I try to pass that mentality on to others. If someone starts belittling themselves in my hearing, I try to point out how human they are and what their strengths are. I don’t know if it always has an impact, but I hope it does some of the time.
Once, at the gym, I was explaining to a gentleman around my age something about how our computer system processes payments on his account. He looked at me and said, “You’ll have to talk to my wife about computers. She’s smarter than me.” Without thinking, I responded that while she may be smarter than him about computers, I was sure there were things he knew more about than she did. His face brightened up when he said, “True, she doesn’t know anything about repairing cars.” I hope I changed his perspective, even if only for that day.
The next time you drop something, or forget something, notice how you talk to yourself about it. Do you immediately say, “God, I’m stupid,” or, “I’m such a klutz?” Would you say that to a friend who did the same thing? I bet you wouldn’t. Try saying to yourself what you would say to a friend. If that doesn’t feel natural to you, then try taking the self-blame out of it. Instead of saying “I’m such a klutz,” try saying “Oops, everybody drops things.” It makes a huge difference in how you feel about those little mistakes we all make.
A therapist friend told me that only 10-15% of people are willing to work towards evolving. I find that really discouraging. It makes sense to me that working on these two areas would be a simple way to start working on your personal evolution. For at least the next week, try to have only positive expectations of yourself and others. When mistakes are made, be kind and understanding to the person who made the mistake, even if it was you. At the end of the week I hope you see a difference in how you view yourself and the events that occur around you.
I expect you’ll like it.