Advice on Not Having Your Expectations Violated or How to Cope with Disappointment (At Least Not as Badly): An Article By Jacob Walters
Are you tired of people letting you down? Do you expect more from others but feel that they won’t come through in the clutch? Have you ever felt hopeless and angry after having your expectations violated? I know the pain of having someone shatter your expectations in a bad way and have experienced the pain of someone letting you down. Therefore, I have some advice that’ll help you in easing the pain from experiencing Expectancy Violations Theory.
But before we start talking about how to handle such situations, we need to understand the very definition of Expectancy Violations Theory. Expectancy Violations Theory, or EVT, is “an interpersonal communication theory that makes the counterintuitive claim that violations of expectations are sometimes preferable to confirmations of expectations” (Burgoon, 1993). It was originally created to take on the effects of violations during interpersonal and group communication. EVT also tackles the proxemics, which “refers to the organization, use, and interpretation of space and distance” (Burgoon, 1993), of such violations in these communications. Expectancy violations can come in the form of being let down, which is a part of why our own decisions can leave us disappointed. After all, “decision making under uncertainty is part of our everyday life and humans do not always make decisions predicted by rational or utilitarian laws” (Tzieropoulos, 2011). Expectancy violations don’t have to always be bad; they can also come in the form of a pleasant surprise, such as an unexpected promotion or a compliment from a stranger. However, this is a part of why Expectancy Violations Theory is viewed in such a negative light; people often associate ‘violations’ with negative connotations.
How should you go about reacting to having your expectations violated? What should you do to lessen the blow of having your expectations violated? One way that I feel is the best way is to anticipate and consider all possible outcomes and scenarios. One reason why this helps is that it’ll help lessen the blow for when something doesn’t go your way. Think back to when you were a child and you didn’t get that gift you wanted. Childhood helps us prepare for expectancy violations and disappointments in that “small, manageable disappointments starting early in childhood help us learn to be more realistic” (Barth, 2015). If you take into consideration what may happen if a situation goes awry, you can be more prepared if it happens. Not getting that promotion would normally be an expectancy violation, but the impact would be lessened by knowing who’s involved and what’s at stake. You gave it a try, but you knew that it wasn’t meant to be. In turn, your letdown “is helping you move toward your goals, not away from your goals as you originally thought” (Chua, 2018).
Another way to lessen the blow from having your expectations violated is to do your research on the situation. Find out what’s going on and get a good read on who’s involved and what’s happening. Yes, this may be hard to do for some. But being informed of what’s happening and who’s involved can also help with coping with expectancy violations. We’re in an age where we have access to information at our fingertips, yet not many of us use the very information that we can easily access. We can also use the expectancy violation to learn from the event to better ourselves as people. For example, take the art of gambling. Keep in mind that “expectations are hardly ever controlled in typical gambling tasks as most studies focus on the size and the monetary outcomes without accounting for the internal reference point (subject’s prediction or expectations) (Tzieropoulos, 2011). Basically, people go to a slot machine hoping to gain more money than they originally had when they should be wary of this expectation. The experience you had “has allowed you to gain new lessons, whether about yourself, the situation, or the world” (Chua, 2018).
One other way you can lessen the blow from an expectancy violation is to change your expectations. Since “expectancies can be conceptualized as framing devices that help both to characterize and structure interpersonal interactions and affect consequent information processing, behavior, and perceptions (Burgoon, 1993),” we usually frame our expectations from our experiences. What if we altered our expectations to lessen the blow? Another thing to consider is how “factors that lead into expectancies in certain communication situations will vary in great contrast according to the situation” (Kriskovich, 2012). What factors not only affect the expectations you have, but how you react when your expectations aren’t met? Sometimes, it’s best to shift your perception if you want to not have your expectations violated.
Granted, gathering information and considering all scenarios doesn’t apply to all violations. Yes, getting informed on what to do if someone violates your expectations and considering the scenarios can get you aware of what may go down. However, you can’t ‘prepare’ yourself for when something completely unexpected like rape happens since you can’t read the mind of the offending party. You also can’t prepare yourself for someone randomly hugging you in public. It would also be unnecessary to prepare yourself for a positive violation, especially if the positive violation never comes. You get that promotion that you didn’t think you would get. All the sudden, you feel a sudden arousal from getting that promotion! As mentioned earlier, expectancy violations aren’t always a bad thing, which is why EVT gets a bad rap. In any case, preparing yourself for all possible outcomes can help prep you for what may happen and will lessen the blow from having your expectations let down.
In conclusion, preparing yourself for all possible outcomes is the best way to cope with having to deal with expectancy violations. Considering all outcomes and doing your research on what may happen can help lessen the impact of the violation and will help you not get caught off guard. Keep in mind that this advice isn’t applicable to all situations involving a violation. There are certain situations where you can’t do anything about the expectancy violation in the beginning. However, there are ways that can help you move on from having your expectations violated in those specific situations. Hopefully, you will keep this little bit of advice in mind the next time your expectations get violated.
Barth, Diane F. “Disappointed? Disillusioned? 8 Ways to Deal With a Letdown.” Disappointed? Disillusioned? 8 Ways to Deal With a Letdown, Psychology Today, 28 Mar. 2015, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-couch/201503/disappointed-disillusioned-8-ways-deal-letdown.
Burgoon, Judee. “Expectancy Violations Theory.” Expectancy Violations Theory, 1993, pp. 1–9., doi:9781118540190.wbeic102. University of Arizona.
Chua, Celestine. “5 Steps to Deal With Disappointment in Life.” 5 Steps to Deal With Disappointment in Life, Personal Excellence, 2017, personalexcellence.co/blog/how-to-deal-with-disappointment/.
Kriskovich, Tanner. “How Culture Influences Our Expectations of Others.” How Culture Influences Our Expectations of Others, 2012, pp. 1–18. University of Portland, Communication Studies, doi:http://pilotscholars.up.edu/cst_studpubs/4.
Tzieropoulos, Helene, et al. “The Impact of Disappointment in Decision Making: Inter-Individual Differences and Electrical Neuroimaging.” The Impact of Disappointment in Decision Making: Inter-Individual Differences and Electrical Neuroimaging, vol. 4, 6 Jan. 2011. U.S. National Library of Medicine, doi:10.3389/fnhum.2010.00235.
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