The Law of Expectations uses expectations to influence reality and create results. Individuals tend to make decisions based on how others expect them to perform. As a result, people fulfill those expectations whether positive or negative. Expectations have a powerful impact on those we trust and respect, but, interestingly, an even greater impact on perfect strangers. When we know someone expects something from us, we will try to satisfy him or her in order to gain respect and likeability.
In a study, second graders listened to statements from their teachers before taking a math test. There were three types of statements: expectation, persuasion, or reinforcement. The expectation statements went something like, “You know your math really well!” or “You work really hard at your math.” Persuasion statements involved sentences like, “You should be good at math.” or “You should be getting better math grades.” Finally, for the reinforcement statements, teachers said things like, “I’m really happy about your progress” or “This is excellent work!” Now, what do you think the results were? The scores were the highest in the “expectation” category! Why were the expectation statements the most effective? They created personal assumptions within each student. Those assumptions conditioned the actual external results.
Often our expectations are based on the assumptions we have about people or groups of people. The same is true of ourselves. Have you ever noticed how your expectations become reality in your personal life? Expectation is literally a self-fulfilling prophecy. We do this consciously and subconsciously. Remember the kid in grade school who was always really rowdy and disruptive? Sometimes if people already assume they are perceived a certain way, then that is indeed exactly how they will act, even if they don’t mean to. The rowdy kid in grade school knew everyone perceived him as disruptive, and so he was. The teacher expected bad behavior, and the expectations were fulfilled.
Consider the profound impact this can have in your own life. Are the assumptions and expectations you have about yourself liberating or victimizing? There are countless examples of “self-fulfilling prophecies,” or the Law of Expectations at work in everyday life. Ever notice how someone who thinks they’re going to be getting fired suddenly experiences a drop in the quality and enthusiasm for their work? Then what happens? They get fired! Their belief caused causes them to act a certain way, and those expectations then worked to bring about the very thing that at first was only a figment of their imagination.
Under the umbrella of expectations, teachers can be the greatest asset or the greatest negative influence in a child’s life. We know what happens when a teacher labels a student a “troublemaker” because it creates certain expectations for the student’s actions. We have seen the labels “slow learner,” “stupid,” and “ADD” become projections for a student’s future academic success. There is the story of the substitute teacher who came to class and found a note from the regular teacher labeling one of her students as a troublemaker and another as helpful. The substitute teacher began the class looking for these two students. When she found them, she treated them accordingly. However, when the teacher returned, she was amazed when she discovered the substitute felt the troublemaker was helpful and the helper was trouble. She had gotten them mixed up! The children’s behavior was based on the substitute’s expectations. This is often called social labeling. People tend to live up to the positive label bestowed on them.
On the flip side, we have all had teachers who had high expectations of us and brought us to the next level. Can you imagine how powerful this becomes? Imagine the first day of class as the teacher looks around the room at her students. What if there she has an Asian student who is the son of a distinguished professor, another versus one who it the brother of a son of a previous student who was a class clown, and one who is? What if her students were heavily pierced and wearing all black? What do you think her assumptions and expectations would be? Her expectations would probably be fulfilled without ever even speaking to the students.
Everyone persuades for a living. There’s no way around it. Whether you’re a sales professional, an entrepreneur, or even a stay at home parent, if you are unable to convince others to your way of thinking, you will be constantly left behind. Donald Trump said it best, “Study the art of persuasion. Practice it. Develop an understanding of its profound value across all aspects of life.”
One interesting experiment revealed how teachers’ expectations influenced students. Two Head Start teachers were selected who were as equal as possible in potential and in practice. Then, two classes were formed from pupils who had been carefully tested to ensure that they were as similar as possible in background and learning potential. Next, the principal spoke with each teacher alone. He told the first teacher how fortunate she was. “You have a class of high potential pupils this year! Just don’t stand in their way. They’re racers and ready to run.” The second teacher was told, “I’m sorry about your pupils this year. But you can’t expect top students every year. Just do the best you can. We’ll be understanding, regardless of the results.” At the end of the year, the two classes were tested again. The first class scored significantly ahead of the second. The major differentiating factor appeared to be each teacher’s expectations.
Often When blood drive organizers make reminder calls, they may end their conversations with something like, “We’ll see you tomorrow at 10:00 A.M. then, okay?” and then wait for the person’s commitment. Why do they do this? Studies have shown that when you create an expectation, attendance rates dramatically increase.
We know that children tend to put their trash directly on the floor. In one elementary school, students were given individually wrapped pieces of candy. Of course, most of the wrappers ended up on the floor and not in the garbage can. Over the next two weeks, the teacher frequently commented on how neat and tidy the children were. On a visit to the classroom, the principal remarked to the children that their classroom was one of the neatest and cleanest in the school. Even the custodian wrote a note on the blackboard telling the children how clean and tidy their classroom was. At the end of the two weeks, the children were given individually wrapped pieces of candy again. This time, most of the wrappers ended up in the trash can.
Little Johnny Jr. keeps teasing his sister and is not helping out around the home. You know deep down he is a good child. How can you use expectations to see a better outcome?
What self-fulfilling prophecies are coming true with your children? How can you reprogram their mind and actions to create the outcome you want?
What expectations does your environment at home create?
One thing you will notice with toddlers and small children is that they behave according to the expectations of their parents. When I was single, I noticed that when children fell down or bumped their heads while running and playing, and sometimes bumping their heads or falling down. I also noticed that they would look at their parents so they would know how to react. If the parents showed great concern and pain in their eyes, the children would start to cry in an effort to get the attention they wanted. This would happen regardless of whether the child really felt pain or not.
One of the techniques my wife and I tried as new parents was the exact opposite of this approach. We changed the expectation, and it has worked great! When our children hit their heads or get a small scrape, they look up to us and we all laugh. The amazing thing that happens is that they begin to laugh too. They realize it’s not a big deal and go off to resume their activities, often laughing with us. Children act based on the expectations of their parents. You create the expectations in your voice, in your actions, and with the words you use.
Persuasion is the missing puzzle piece that will crack the code to dramatically increase your income, improve your relationships, and help you get what you want, when you want, and win friends for life. Ask yourself how much money and income you have lost because of your inability to persuade and influence. Think about it. Sure you’ve seen some success, but think of the times you couldn’t get it done. Has there ever been a time when you did not get your point across? Were you unable to convince someone to do something? Have you reached your full potential? Are you able to motivate yourself and others to achieve more and accomplish their goals? What about your relationships? Imagine being able to overcome objections before they happen, know what your prospect is thinking and feeling, feel more confident in your ability to persuade.
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