Situation 1: My mother cooks something for me with all her heart and wants me to taste it. The moment I taste it my thoughts get to the dish and I realize something missing in it. While telling this to my mother, I chose to be blunt in my approach and tell her directly what was missing. Although she wanted me to give the right feedback, she probably did not want me to be so blunt.
Situation 2: I’m doing some work and my girlfriend calls me and says ‘Honey, I love you!’ I’m engaged in my own thoughts and my work, and the moment she calls and tells me this, my attention immediately gets broken and I have to respond.
Now the tricky part about getting an ‘I love you’ from your loved one is, it needs to be returned else the sender somehow feels bad! It is as if the ‘I love you’ was not supposed to be ‘just given’ but also to be taken in equal proportion, maybe even with interest! The problem in this situation is that I’m busy in my own thoughts, and therefore I ignore the ‘I love you’ thought and don’t give the same reply at that moment. This makes her feel bad.
Situation 3: I’m sitting in my room reading something when my brother comes to me and asks to go for a movie in the evening. I want to enjoy the coziness of my room and my book therefore I tell a story and say something like, ‘I am feeling tired and want to enjoy my book for the day. Please ask someone else to watch the film with you.’
The Expectation Thought
If you look closely, you will find that in all the above three situations, the other person sends an Expectation Thought. In the first case the expectation is to reply to the taste of the dish, in the second the reply to the ‘I love you’, and in the third the reply to the film plan.
A lot of times during the day, we get similar Expectation Thoughts from our closed ones. Every time you are asked for your opinion on something, or asked to come for lunch by colleagues, or asked for after-work party or any similar situation, the sender is giving an Expectation Thought. The purpose of the Expectation Thought is to get our response on the thing that was asked for.
The key with the Expectation Thought of course is to get the response we are actually looking for! That’s what makes it an expectation!
The Truth of the Moment
At the instant the Expectation Thought enters in our mind, the first reaction that comes from within is the Truth of the Moment. In my case, it was the honest feedback on the dish with my mother, the response to my girlfriend that I’m busy, and the reply to my brother that I want to read the book.
In the above examples the Truth of the Moment in all three situations comes out not in alignment of the Expectation Thought.
The Two Directions
In all the above cases, two things can happen.
Case 1: The Expectation Thought and the Truth of the Moment both are in the same direction (direction A).
This case is fairly simple. Say my brother wanted to watch the film and my Truth of the Moment also told me to watch it. In this particular case, the direction of both the Expectation Thought and the Truth of the Moment are the same. Thus, the Expectation Thought was matched and both he and I come out happy. Same is the case with my mother when my Truth of the Moment also said the dish was very good which is what I would have told her and both of us come out happy.
Case 2: The Expectation Thought is in one direction (say, direction B) while my Truth of the Moment is in another direction (say, direction A). This happened in the above cases as the Truth of the Moment was not in alignment with the Expectation Thought. This is where trouble arises!
It is evident that the person with the Expectation Thought is looking for one kind of response while my Truth of the Moment is giving me something else. In this particular case, what options do I have?
Option a: Match the Expectation Thought by thinking about it and giving the other person the direction B that they want. Say I know the dish needs improvement but in order to keep my mother happy, I tell her that it’s good. In the same way, my girlfriend is expecting me to say ‘I love you’ and although my Truth of the Moment is ‘I’m busy’, I reflect over it and say ‘I love you’, with the idea that it does not do me any harm and it will make her feel good. Fear of course is another motivator for this behavior.
From a language perspective, the word we use for this phenomenon is ‘lie’.
Every time I give a response to someone which is not in alignment with my Truth of the Moment, I am essentially ‘lying’ to myself and to the other person.
Option b: Stick to the direction A and tell the Truth of the Moment. This is what I did in the first instance when I bluntly gave feedback to my mother about the dish. It is evident that in this case, the direction B of the Expectation Thought is not matched, hence the Equilibrium is not restored in her mind. The same would happen if I tell my girlfriend that I am busy right now, let’s talk about it later. Her Expectation Thought will not be matched and hence her Equilibrium won’t be restored, making her feel bad as a result.
Option c: Begin with the direction A of the Truth of the Moment and end at the direction B of the Expectation Thought. This is the art of storytelling! This is where we neither lie to ourselves nor make the other person feel bad. This is where we inform the reason why we don’t want to fulfill the expectation. This is what I did in the third situation where I used more number of words to tell my brother why I don’t want to watch the film.
Many a times this is all the other person wants: a story, a reason why I cannot match their Expectation Thought. It is also popularly known as the Art of Saying No. Sticking to the Truth of the Moment while making sure that the Equilibrium of the Expectation Thought is least disturbed.
Think-it-over: How many times have you faced these or similar Expectation Thoughts from your close ones? In how many of those situations was your Truth of the Moment in the same direction as the Expectation Thought, how many was it in a different direction? Further, which of the above three responses did you give in situations where the Truth of the Moment was not in alignment with the Expectation Thought?
It is evident that the more we lie, the more we have to lie to cover up the lies. Choosing the Truth of the Moment with compassion in mind is perhaps the best way to deal with Expectations of our loved ones.
P.S. A four week experiment: For four weeks following the date of release of this post, I am doing a Truth of the Moment Experiment in which I will only speak the Truth of the Moment, either in blunt direction A or in the form of a story matching the direction B. The idea is to understand the situations which lead to lying and to see closely if the truth will/can suffice in these situations. Of course there are risks to it and I’m willing to take them!
Care to do your own Truth of the Moment Experiment for four weeks from the date of reading this post?!