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6 1/2 Things You Should Stop Expecting From Others

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A few things in life to give up on -- but only if you want to gain happiness.

By Amy Shearn

1. Stop Expecting People: To Be Your Partner in Crime
women adults friends ice cream
A group of friends and I had been out late one night when I saw it there, glowing like a beacon: the 24-hour frozen-yogurt stand. "You have to get something with me," I urged a friend's girlfriend, who I didn't know well. At my insistence, she came with, and after I ordered a Snickers-covered chocolate something, she reluctantly ordered a small lemonade. It took me a good while to realize that she had a lot of reasons for not wanting to be my partner in crime: She was out of money, she had to be up early and was hoping to head home. I'd thought it would be a fun, dorm-room-y bonding moment, but in the end, I was forcing the connection, as if only her enjoyment would justify my own. Ditto for staying up all night, ditto for spending a lot of money on fancy soap or whatever it is. It's okay if indulging in a particular guilty pleasure makes you happy. Do it. Be happy, down to the $7.50 in extra toppings.

2. Stop Expecting People: To Be on Time

They won't be. Stop being mad about it. Just bring a book to read while you wait.

3. Stop Expecting People: To Bash You on the Way to the Copier
office gossip
Pop Quiz: You turn the corner in the office and hear your name mentioned in conversation.

You...

(a) Assume they have called a special hallway meeting to discuss your many faults, foibles and fashion felonies.

(b) Try to head them off at the pass, bursting in with an, "I know, my presentation was horrible, wasn't it?"

(c) Go right back to your desk and bury your head in paperwork, hoping maybe they'll forget you exist.

(d) Think about what people usually talk about in public spaces at work, figure they are discussing some rather mundane logistical matter that concerns you, keep walking toward them and smile as you say hello.

If you answered (d), pick up your gold sticker on the way home! Regardless of what anyone was actually saying, you have a positive, balanced worldview and self-image. Trust that people think the best of you. (And, if they don't, let that be their problem, not yours.)

4. Stop Expecting People: To Like Your Catstache Picture

As you already knew on some level or another, that photo you just took of yourself holding your cat's face to your upper lip was about you and your adorable kitty. It doesn't matter if it gets 175 "likes" or retumbled 87 times or retweeted 329 times or if only your mother-in-law, who "likes" everything, "likes" your post. Post what you want to post, ride the dopamine rush, and give your feline some catnip treats to show her how much you love (not like) her, no internet required.

5. (a) Stop Expecting People: To Change
baby crying high chair
We've heard it again and again: Don't expect that you can revise (or worse, correct) someone. Loving people means loving them the way they are. Like, for example, those people in your family—you know, the ones whom you have known your whole life? You know how your little sister has always had temper tantrums when she gets hangry (half-hungry, half-angry, all-unbearable) from the day she ate her first bite right up until her wedding morning? You know how your father has always gotten grumpy when his routine gets upended making him a rotten traveler? Right. Those things are not going to change just because pants styles, presidents and gas prices have.

(b) Stop Expecting People: Not to Change

And, yet. Let's not get cynical, here. The truth is somewhere in between people changing and never changing. Don't discount the person who sets out to make a switch. When your friend swears she's giving up her constant, compulsive, IRL-conversation-killing texting habit, don't roll your eyes and text her, "Yeah, right." Sometimes a big part of a person changing is having the support of her friends and family—the more people believe in this new her, this her that doesn't constantly have a smartphone in her hands, the more she'll be able to picture what this new her can really become.

6. Stop Expecting People: To Give You a Dream Compliment
woman party heels
You spent what you usually spend on a week's worth of groceries on getting your hair done -- the color, the cut, the blow-out -- and it's perfect. And yet, people at the party compliment your shoes. Yes, your 15-year-old shoes, bought before the invention of Zappos, fished out of the back of the closet at the last minute. Have the grace to take a compliment for what it is, rather than moping over all the other great things about you that they overlooked—your great vision for your company (when they instead laud your ability to make peace among warring co-workers); your ninja-like hedge-clipping (when they simply praise your lawn as "tidy"). There will be an opportunity for you to wow them in the way you most want to. Greatness never goes undetected for long.

Amy Shearn is the author of The Mermaid of Brooklyn: A Novel and How Far Is the Ocean from Here?.

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