Turn Negative Expectations Into Positive Outcomes

People keep disappointing me - they don't act as badly as I expect them to. I hate to admit it - but that happens all the time. It happens when I hide my negative expectations - and behave as if everything was going to be positive. An example: I was on a walk and a group of young men were headed toward me - late teens - four of them - walking shoulder to shoulder. There was not going to be enough space for me to stay on the sidewalk unless one of them gave way.

My negative expectation was that they would make it difficult for me - it's happened before. As I got close to them, I smiled and said " How you doing?" They answered by asking me the same question. They also moved and gave me room to stay on the sidewalk. I reflected on that little scenario, and was kind of ashamed that my expectation was that they would give me a hard time. But I felt good that - even though I didn't feel optimistic - I acted it.

And the result was a pleasant exchange and we all went on our way. How often do we let negative expectations cause negative behavior? How often do we let negative expectations create negative results? If you're like me, it's more often than I like to admit. And yet, when I work to overcome negative expectations and project positive behavior, I am pleasantly surprised. Things end up better than I expected. What I've learned is to spend more time on positive behaviors, and less time trying to dwell on the reasons for negative expectations. How to do that? The first step is awareness.

After years of fine tuning our expectations based on our personal experience, the media, generalizations and a host of othet inputs, we act based on some really imbedded beliefs. The behaviors we adopt seem to happen so automatically we don't realize them. And those behaviors are the architects of our outcomes. Start building awareness by listening to yourself.

Do you hear negative messages about how things will turn out - a sales prospect that won't buy, a proposal that will be rejected, an invitation extended but refused? If you do - and almost all of us do, you've got some expectation and behavior work to do. Now that you've identified a negative expectation, it's time to create a positive behavior to overcome it. Look back at the sales call, the proposal, the invitation and see what could have been done to project a behavior that expressed a positive outcome. Perhaps that question that started "Would you like to-----?' could be stated differently. That proposal that apologized for the time it took to present it would have been better served with a statement of benefit. Perhaps that sales call that started with a thank you for your time could have started with a positive statement of value to the prospect.

The point is to replace behavior based on negative expectations with behavior based on what we desire to be the outcome. The next step is to learn from the result of the positive behavior - help the outcome challenge the beliefs and biases that led to the negative expectation in the first place. But don't try to over analyze where the expectation came from. Use the time to create and reinforce positive behaviors.

Done often enough, the outcomes of the positive behaviors will change expectations. That's what's so great about having your actions lead your expectations. Then do it again - and again.

I guarantee positive results. I know a smile and an engaging question - "How are you doing?" work wonders with contacts. I learned it by forcing myself to use it - again and again. My expectation of people contacts has changed for the better - through my own positive actions. So will yours.

Andy Cox helps clients align their resources and design and implement change through the application of goals focused on the important few elements that have maximum impact in achieving success - as defined by the client. He can be reached at and E Mail at


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