Stretch international cyber book club – Ch 6
Catch up here:
Well, this was a roller coaster ride of a chapter for me. It brought up so many memories, emotions and ‘ah-ha’ moments.
I will try very hard to limit my writing, or this will become Chapter 6A!
Although I can say I do not read my horoscope religiously, for some reason, I felt like I should before I began to read this chapter. If you will indulge me, the last line stated, “…tap into your natural ambition and your driven nature, and you have the recipe for success.” Who said there are no accidents? I believe we are what we expect, but to recognize the responsibilities of how we care or choose not to care about others is a bit alarming. Maybe even frightening and still it makes a hell of a lot of sense. It is what can make a leader strong or toxic and in the example of a teacher, their words can deeply scar or cripple a child. If anything this chapter means we must be mindful.
When Sonenshinein speaks of a self-fulfilling prophecy, that if people think something is real they run with it – has been proven over and over again just on Facebook! I’m constantly surprised people will read it and without checking if the site is legit (yes there is a way to do this, but yes it takes a little time too – so it seems people choose not to do it) and share it with more than one ugly comment of their own. I remembered as a child my father told me if it is in print, it is real and the truth, because they’re required to vet it. They can’t print false news. He truly, deeply believed this. Oh how I wish it was true. As an adult, I learned of the corruption in local/state/federal gov’t, the people who were elected to take care of us, and that hospitals may have originally been created to help people, but now that care is overshadowed by how much can be made from sick people. To college tuitions rising 1000% since 1972 – yes money is necessary, but it really seems to have become a God.
I loved the reference to Eliza Doolittle (Oh how I wanted to wear that white gown!) “…that people are often exactly what we expect them.” We have all experienced a smooth talker, a too good to be true person, a don’t turn your back on him, individual. Perhaps teaching our children to follow their natural sixth sense would save them from uncomfortable if not deceitful situations, people, and abusers. Give them a voice – and assure them they are heard.
On page 130, The Pygmalion Effect, Sonenshinein writes of managers confirming and strengthening their expectations of employees. Unfortunately from my own experience when working in Hospitality at Phelps Hospital in Tarrytown NY. The exact opposite was true. She would throw you under the bus daily, write you up for anything she thought was an infraction, watch every step made on security cameras and show signs of deep paranoia if someone in authority spoke to you privately. There was no trust, nor respect – “people usually live up to or down to those expectations.” I expected more. Yet now I know to simply chalk it up to experience. Right? Hmmm. When are we told this? How to experience something without being maimed by it?
As the chapter continues, we read of Blind Dates (and other first interactions) Are Never Really Blind. I immediately remembered doing face painting at our local County Center for a children’s day event. That must have been the day the joints in my hand went on strike after painting hundreds of balloons on cheeks, teddy bears, striped snakes, Harry Potter lightning bolts and a favorite – a dragon complete with fire. It was a happy time, funny when a parent would sit down, and the kids would help him/her stand right back up and move out of the way. But I will forever remember a little girl in a wheelchair. The kids flowed like water around her, pushing her farther back, until I finally stopped, parted the sea as it were, and signaled her to come park beside me. The kids were suddenly quiet, looking at the child's legs in braces, her back restrained and large metal screws sparkled in the lights. Did I see them too? Sure, but I had glanced to look, not stared – what I ‘looked’ at where her blue eyes. I smiled and asked her name, she brightened right up. Not one time did I ask what was wrong with her, what happened, nothing medical. I refused to. But. I did ask if I could ask her a question. You could see her body brace itself for what she thought I was going to say. She slowly nodded, I kept painting the most ornate dragon I’d ever done, then asked, “Does it drive you nuts when people stare and ask questions that are none of their business? And do you sometimes wish you had big ass mega tires on this chair that you could just slam into turbo charge and peel out?” The look on her face was priceless! She laughed and nodded her head, her mother chuckled, what’s more, the kids standing nearby picked their jaws up and started talking to her – not at her.
I think this is what being mindful means, and how we need to practice. It is not just the meditation classes, or prayers sitting in pews. It is in the every day. It is looking deeply in what is in front of you and trusting those feelings, our senses (we each have, but some have forgotten how to use or never relied on them, to begin with), yet that is the fertile soil where those positive seeds need to be planted. That is where we find the mindfulness of expectations.
p.s. I found the section about the Dunce caps really interesting too! (John Duns Scotus)
Breathe Deep, Think Peace
Up Next: Ch. 7 by Jeni Driscoll
Oh my gosh, Patty. I love your write up here, particularly your comments tying this chapter to mindfulness. I am, right now, in the middle of a 10 week course on mindful meditation. It is an experience that is opening my eyes and expanding my understanding on so many different fronts each week. You are so right that we must be keenly aware to what is right in front of us if we are going to be able to choose how to deal with actions, reactions, and expectations. We cannot remove the lenses through which we see the world. We can def be aware of them and how they color our thoughts, perceptions, actions, and interactions. I love how this chapter brought straight away to you stories of your own to highlight the concepts. Thank you again for adding such clarity. I had mixed emotions about this chapter for some of the very reasons you highlight i.e. teacher expectations and our children. Chilling. His yellow coat story made me slightly sick to my stomach.
Other stream of consciousness thoughts on this chapter.
First, I have a very complicated relationship with expectations. Prior to 2012, I took expectations for granted in all manners of ways. Then my daughter got sick and everything I thought I knew about everything was shattered. Every assumption I had, expectation I made about what I thought our lives would look like ended. Of course, I know expectations exist..in all these arenas he wrote about. But, to a certain degree, it pains me that he made no effort to say that there could be a 3rd way (aside from for the better or for the worse) to deal with them. Like, working on not having any at all, and as Patty said, to be so aware of them and what's in front of us to learn how to set aside some of these assumptions and forward thinking planning we make. I hope this makes sense. Anyway, I know my personal experience has colored my expectation ( see what I did there) of this chapter…and that having expectations isn't necessarily bad, but when you have them and crisis strikes they are of little benefit. (although, I supposed one could argue that it would be positive to hang onto positive expectations about the outcome of said tragedy, but this is a huge gamble.)
I do appreciate the effort he went to to write about the impact that having negative or positive expectations can have in a variety of different ways. This is always good information to remember in our dealings with others, no matter the venue. However, I was so disgusted by his use of the Jack and Dianne story that I almost chucked the book across the room. While I understand his point for including the story, I guess, I was far more disgusted by the use of of a story that talked about men's attitudes about women changing based on their appearances than I was impacted by the story itself. Huge frowny face in the margin! Very disappointing that this anecdote was included.
I'm also confused by the fact that he seems to use the word expectation and value interchangeably. In the telling of the Groove story, Turnbull has asked himself, he wrote, What were his life's expectations? It seems to me that wanting to live a life of purpose is more of a value..while you can expect to do so, they do not to me seem to be the same thing. Can anyone shed more light on this for me?
expectation: the act or state of looking forward or anticipating, the degree of probability that something will occur
value: to consider with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness, or importance, something (such as a principle or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable
Patty, thanks for your insight on this chapter. I especially liked your story about face painting and the little girl in the wheelchair!
Tracey, I agree that he uses the word expectation and value interchangeably. I didn't notice it until you pointed it out, but I looked at it again and it doesn't make sense. I guess he's saying high expectations = how much money he makes. I strive to live a life filled with joy, peace, friends and family, faith, less stress, more mindfulness, and also to be financially comfortable. But I wouldn't call it an expectation. It's more what I value in life, it's the way I choose to live.
I'm not sure why, but when I read this book, I tend to want to play devil's advocate. While I enjoy some of his examples, sometimes what he says rubs me the wrong way. (Like what Tracey mentioned, the Jack and Dianne story, ugh).
I agree that expecting a lot from ourselves and others is mostly a good thing. Thinking highly of yourself and others is good. But something kept gnawing at me from the beginning of this chapter. High expectations can also be negative.
I was thinking of children in particular. We want our kids to do great in school, at sports, playing an instrument, whatever. But high expectations can also be way too much pressure. Maybe someone isn't good at math, basketball, or piano. It doesn't mean they're a failure if they don't meet someone else's high expectations. But they might feel like a failure. This can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, or self-hatred.
I also thought of how kids get labeled at such a young age. Such as, being in the "smart" class, in the "low" class, "misbehaves," etc. I do think kids/people live up to those expectations, but they aren't necessarily positive.
When my daughter was in fourth grade and had severe panic attacks, my husband and I struggled with telling her teacher and the school nurse. We did not want our child labeled as "anxious." We knew it would be in her school medical file throughout high school. We eventually did tell them, as they needed to know in case she had a problem at school. But we were careful to not label her. There was so much more to her than panic attacks.
I liked the positive story about Madame C.J. Walker. She didn't give up and found another way when she came across obstacles. Like my husband often says, "If one way doesn't work, find another!" Don't give up, be persistent. It's such a positive character trait to be able to see your difficulties as opportunities.
Thanks Jeni, and I so agree with you too re: how expectations can have a negative impact..exactly the example you give of kids with too high expectations placed upon them. I def feel like he did not give this topic the space he needed to to delve into these variations.
Thank you Tracey! I too almost threw the book across the room lol! If I had Scott's number I would have called him AND his mother!
Your post made me smile immensely. Not sure if you've heard but LeBron James is financing the making of Madame Walker's story with Octavia Spencer in the lead (I adore her!) The Walker estate is in Irvington, about three miles from my home on the Hudson River. It is glorious. I'd absolutely recommend going to the website to take a peek inside 🙂
I’m so glad there’s going to be a movie about her! An incredible woman, and Octavia Spencer sounds perfect for the role! Thanks for that info. Do they have tours at the Walker estate?
Each one of you have made such good points that I'm not sure I have anything of further enlightenment to add to the conversation!
I will say that I have a love/hate relationship with expectation.
As a parent I think it's good to make our expectations clear to our children – as in, I expect you to respect our home by keeping your room neat; I expect you to take care of yourself physically; I expect that you handle your chores and responsibilities without complaining. You know, the minimum level of expectation. I believe that's healthy and not oppressive for kids to have that kind of guidance. But I have an acquaintance with whom I have a strong difference of opinion about parenting. Her girls, both still in elementary school, never have a moment of downtime. They are calendared up the ying-yang with Girl Scouts, Irish dance, soccer, church activities and of course, homework. They are expected to receive awards for scholarship and citizenship every semester, and their success (or failure) is charted every day by the chore charts plastered on the "playroom" wall. What a farce – the only thing that doesn't happen in that home is play! I, of course, could be completely wrong in my assumptions. Perhaps the girls WANT to do everything and are naturally gifted students and citizens of the world. Then shame on me for my negative thinking. But honestly, it will not surprise me to see them either develop severe anxiety disorders or become teenage rebels. I think anyone can only withstand pressure for so long before they crack.
Another kind of expectation I really dislike are the ones that are not grounded in reality. I find this happens a lot with my husband. He envisions an activity – say Christmas dinner with the family – and when the event doesn't proceed as he's envisioned it, he becomes disillusioned and sad, which usually manifests itself as anger and frustration directed toward anyone who didn't play their part correctly. So in that respect, I'm not a fan of expectations. But how does one move past expectations into the realm of just allowing people or events to just BE???
I'm with Kelly… I'm not sure what else I can add to this conversation directly from what we read this week. Kelly, your question about how one can move past expectations and just "be" struck a chord with me. In the first decade of my relationship with my mother-in-law, I was very uncomfortable around her. I felt disliked and criticized. This wasn't all in my head. She voiced her dislike & criticism often, including several attempts to coax her son to jilt me, literally in front of me & within a half hour of "walking down the aisle." From way before the wedding, I hated the idea of having to see my mother-in-law. I'd get anxious on the morning of the day we'd be seeing her, and the feeling intensified sharply on the to her home. I could hardly speak on the drive over. I felt this was a wifely duty, this having to see her. It didn't matter whether we were seeing just her or her along with my husband's 3 siblings and their spouses and children. My mother-in-law just had an aura that seemed to permeate everything. I expected to have a miserable time. And most of the time, I really was uncomfortable and felt so relieved when it was time to go home. I was quiet on the way home, decompressing. Over the years, while I never became close friends with any of my sisters- (or brothers-) in-law, I felt they were nice enough people (mostly). I realized that I was stressing over seeing my in-laws in total, when actually, I could have pleasant conversations with several of them. My expectations of having to deal with a mean mother-in-law had overshadowed everything. I finally realized that getting together with the in-laws wasn't so bad. In fact, it could even be pleasant. I was able to stop getting so stressed out before family get-togethers and have a nice time. That helped me realize that getting all worked up before seeing my mother-in-law was damaging. Instead of stressing about getting together with her, I let go of the expectations of having a rotten time. I was able to just "be", in the moment, and while the years did soften her up a bit, and I got emotionally stronger, I wound up having pleasant enough times with her. Imagine that! I had created my own self-fulfilling prophecy, first to have a lousy time, then to enjoy the time with my in-laws.
So, Kelly, how does one get past expectations that do not serve us well? I think the first step is to realize the damage that expectations can bring. One also needs to be willing to change, to think differently, to act differently. Mindfulness is key!
Patty, I also loved your story about the girl in the wheelchair. It's a travesty that we are not taught from a young age how to interact with all sorts of people that are different from us. Where are the lessons or classes for kids to "unlearn" the stigma surrounding mental, physical & learning disabilities? Maybe one day there will be lessons on understanding, acceptance & empathy from such a young age that the stigmas don't exist anymore. With all the violence, stigma, discrimination & hate in our culture, surely we need to help children learn some social skills that they aren't learning at home.
Great comment Kelly…as I second Sue in regard to how to just be and the foundation to that being mindfulness. I am taking a 10 week mindful meditation class right now down in Camarillo. I'd love to get together to discuss because there is so much misconception around mindfulness and the practice thereof. But it for sure a crucial element to disengaging from the narratives we have driving us all of the time to create space to allow acceptance and then letting go. Sounds like a lot of mumbo jumbo…but I am living proof that its practice can actually change a life. Let's get together!
I remember reading about the pygmalion effect in college, particularly the study where kindergarten teachers were told fake IQ's which turned out to be the kids' locker numbers, which then correlated with the kids' performance — although how one would evaluate kindergarteners was probably not something I questioned enough!
This chapter made me think of Michael Lewis' book "The Undoing Project", the story of two Israeli statisticians trying to understand human decision-making: https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-two-friends-who-changed-how-we-think-about-how-we-think
I also wondered about that management expectation that people don't like change. I think we DO like change when the change is positive and acknowledges a problem that needs to be addressed.
Like Jeni, I also didn't notice him using expectation + value interchangeably. Perhaps, he linked the two because he believed that what value we think/put on ourselves can be related to what expectations we make? It's a nice thing to think about.
Thank you for this, Kelly. I wish my parents were more open in communication with me (I don't want to speak for my siblings) when I was a child/teen. It seemed to me, with the extra advantage of maturity and looking back, that they just assumed we'd know everything expected of us growing up. Even simple things like household chores, whenever I "messed up", I'd get scolded, when the mess could've been avoided if things (along with expectations) were explained to me. I suppose there was that assumption we'd automatically know how to do things from goodness-knows-where. All water under the bridge now though.
Patty, thank you for sharing your story and especially of the girl in the wheelchair. I'm surprised with the humour in the end. Hope those other kids learn something from that day and carry it with them for the rest of their lives.
Apology for the late participation in this discussion. It's been a hectic work week (still not an excuse though…)
I liked this chapter because the message of managing our expectations of ourselves ring so true to me. It's been a pendulum of a battle between fear+doubt and hope+courage with me at the beginning of my writing career. Deep inside, I knew it was what I really wanted to do with my life but because of years of low self-esteem & living in fear, I was afraid to really pursue it. It took me a story of loving myself again and knowing I can achieve my dreams no matter how hard it seems before my expectations of myself changed for the better. The rest is history.
Thank you for a terrific and thoughtful write-up, Patty! Highlighting the transcendent power of perception and perspective to shape outcome, this chapter has been one of my favorites so far. Like Patty, I felt particularly connected to Sonenshein's discussion of the self-fulfilling prophesy. Having majored in psychology as an undergraduate, I studied this concept in depth, but I appreciated the reminder to examine ways this powerful phenomenon impacts both our own behavior and that of others.
Echoing Tracey, I loved the way you tied in the idea of mindfulness as a way for us to consciously enlist critical thinking to combat the default information processing biases in our programming. We so easily and comfortably become passengers in our own lives, allowing the imagined inevitable forces to act upon us while we patiently witness our own unfolding story. Certainly, remaining in the moment, processing information and consciously selecting a course of action leads to life choices that collectively enables us to lead more meaningful and more purpose-filled lives.
Knowledge certainly is power.
The reality that one's perception drives one's behavior especially resonates with me as a mediator, a mom, and a frequent community leader. The chapter certainly validated my long-held belief that the most important tool I use in all three roles is the clarification and reframing of issues to facilitate effective communication, conflict resolution, and constructive meetings. Critical to productive decision-making, participants first need to asses whether they have a common understanding of reality. Shockingly often, I witness divorcing couples or board members arguing over action items, failing to realize they aren't even starting from an overlapping foundational premise. A soon-to-be ex-husband in my practice, for example, nearly stormed out of a session enraged over his wife's seeming greed over asking for expensive college tuition and books on top of spousal and child support. Reframing the wife's goal as a shared interest in helping her becoming self-supporting rather than remaining financially dependent defused what threatened to be a volatile impasse and re-focused the couple on joint problem-solving. Often, the most useful road to resolution is finding a shared footing from which to evaluate the work ahead.
Finally, a couple of personal reactions to Sonenshein's discussion of labeling. I loved the reminder that the self-talk we play in a loop in our own heads can encourage or sabotage us as we encounter what might be personal or career hurdles, specifically the notion of labeling a challenge as an "opportunity." I need to write this whole discussion down on a post-it note in red ink, highlight it, and glue it to my nose!!!! I definitely indulge in self-doubt and suffer from a puzzlingly sever case of imposter syndrome that no amount of hard evidence seems to alleviate. Funny-not funny: As I was preparing my resume in anticipation of starting my mediation practice after being a stay-at-home-mom for many years and not really believing in myself, I jokingly made the comment to my son and my boyfriend that I look really amazing on paper. They both looked at me stunned, and said, "you are really amazing," which only made me feel like I had them fooled, too. Despite graduating cum laude with a JD from Harvard Law, serving as a teaching fellow for Roger Fisher, the father of principled negotiation, studying mediation under one of the foremost mediators in the world, Forest "Woody" Mosten, working as an adjunct professor of law at Pepperdine and Loyola Law Schools in mediation and negotiation, and working as an associate for one of the largest law firms in the United States, I constantly feel like a child or "just a mom" play acting at being a professional. I would have loved it if Sonenshein expounded more on how to plant positive seeds rather than just telling us to do it.
Strangely, I'm highly skilled with the idea of labeling productively when it comes to my daughter and the wacky wonderful weirdness of her uniquely creative Mallory brain. From the time she was little, I instinctively knew to avoid the term "learning disability" in favor of "her learning style," her "visually or creatively oriented brain," and "the learning environments in which she thrives." I'm not sure why I don't extend the same compassion to myself when facing roadblocks, but I felt inspired by the discussion of viewing roadblocks as "opportunities." We are certainly more empowered to take the reigns and control the course of our lives when we take ownership of absolutely everything we encounter along the way than when we allow ourselves to be mere victims of our circumstances.
There are so many points I could talk about from this chapter, but I will only say one. One's perceptions of our strengths are different from other perceive them to be. The years I spend guiding children with learning disabilities always became a struggle to overcome, with themselves, teachers, therapists and their parents. For example, One parent always thought their child was capable of more, which often times was not the case but we needed to work through it all. Not unlike children without learning issues who didn't apply themselves enough. We often take more time then is necessary to "figure out" what is best between our knowledge and our emotions on a very confusing issue.