You Are The Reason People Will Always Let You Down

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”

Bruce Lee

I try to see the best in people. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to do what they say they are going to do. Basically, I try to let people to live up to their own “hype.”

Unfortunately, most people over-promise and under-deliver. That’s really bad business. (This also applies to relationships, friendships, and just about anything relating to other people).

What you want to do: Under-promise and Over-deliver. This is the secret sauce.

There is nothing wrong with under-promising. It doesn’t mean you are purposely not delivering or being shady. You will deliver what you agree to and then, with a few “aces up your sleeve,” you’ll over-deliver and wow.

This will get you better results across the board. Period.

Another thing people struggle with is following through with mundane things they say they will do—like showing up at a certain time (or altogether), or sending an email by a certain time, or calling you back, etc.

Don’t say you‘ll do something if you won’t do it. You’d be better off saying nothing, then going and doing. In this case, you’ll get the same powerful effect as “under-promising and over-delivering.”

When you fail to deliver because you set the expectation that you were going to, you are really screwing up. (Another way expectation works against you, take note.)

I have high standards, sure, but that has nothing to do with the fact that most people can’t keep their word. And unfortunately, this is what I’ve encountered in people over and over again—of course, this isn’t true for everyone, but it’s way more common than it should be.

On average, you should expect people to not follow through, to return the favor, to reciprocate, to be aware of what you are aware of, to see things the way you see them, etc.

People are more likely to forget, procrastinate, ignore, and make excuses than they are to just get it done.

I’m not being negative or morose, just realistic. Just factual, in fact.

Look, I love people. I forgive their faults and I don’t judge them. I don’t blame them. They can do what they want. That’s life and I will always enjoy their company regardless of their “faults”—actually, I don’t like that word much—fault—because it implies that there is some version of “better” or “perfect.” I think a more appropriate word would be: differences.

As a result of people being the way they are, I often have to lower my expectations—sometimes altogether—or I will be let down.

A few facts about people that will save you ample future suffering if you understand them:

  • People will not reciprocate a thank you or a gift the way you think they should (if at all).
  • They won’t always show appreciation or say thank you the way you think they should.
  • They won’t return the favor (or pay you back) without being reminded.
  • They will think all of these same things about you.


Your perception causes all kinds of problems in your life, especially pertaining to people. You see life a certain way. And this perception (as well as any biases you hold) distorts the truth.

Many of us have the bad habit of holding others to ridiculously high standards, especially when it involves reciprocating favors.

We usually expect people to return favors the way we expect them to, on our schedule. This “tit for tat” is based on expectation and skews our vision of the situation.

Let me tell you something about people: Having expectations of them is a losing proposition.

Let’s consider what an “expectation” is for a second. What happens when someone fulfills an expectation you had of them? Not much, really. You aren’t upset with them, maybe slightly pleased or at least content. Not much of a high, right?

But what happens when someone fails to fulfill an expectation?


You are angry, hurt, tormented. You say things like, “how could they?” or “they don’t care” and so on. Doesn’t this seem like a one-sided proposition? As if you are setting yourself up to be disappointed?

You are. Don’t do it.

It’s hard to never have expectations of others, especially those close to you, but know this: The people that will hurt you the most in your life will always be those closest to you.

Prepare yourself for this inevitable truth by giving others a break and dropping the expectation game.

If you do something for someone, do it because you want to do it and not because you expect them to “return the favor.” You giving a gift or doing a favor for someone should be a reflection of your character, and only that. It should not be based on what that person may or may not do for you in the future. Don’t connect things that aren’t connected.

Expect others to hurt you. Plan on it. It will soften the blow when it does happen. Forgive and forget.

Don’t keep it to yourself. If you feel unhappy about something, try explaining your feelings calmly to that person. You might even turn a crappy situation into a positive one.

Change your mindset regarding people and expectations. Most people in your life will never live up to your expectations. Accept people for who they are, with all their mistakes and shortcomings. Life is better when you aren’t living from expectation to expectation.

Yours With No Expectation,