The Trap of Reciprocity

Peter is a great guy. He treats others well, he’s respectful, and he does everything possible to make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone. At the same time, he thinks that when he sends out positive vibes, it will come back to him. Does that sound like you?

Reciprocity is defined by our friends over at Merriam-Webster as a “mutual exchange of privileges.” Basically, you get what you give. There’s a fundamental problem in believing that the world will work this way – you’re making an assumption that the world acts like you do. This is what I call the “trap of reciprocity.”

When was the last time you felt disappointed? Have you ever wondered how someone becomes disappointed? It’s because a set of expectations were not met. When we do good deeds with the expectation that those actions will net us equal treatment from someone else, we’re on the short end of a stick. Remember, the actions of other people are never under our control. All we can choose to do is be a force of kindness and decency, but we can never encroach on other people’s choice to be or not to be the same. When we’re able to accept that our best intentions won’t always come back to us, we can live with much less disappointment in our lives.

It hurts to get disappointed. Does this mean we should just lower our standards so as not to be disappointed in the future? I don’t think we need to be so bleak. We could, however, adjust our expectations to something more realistic. That means taking into account your situation, and the situation that other people are in. Circumstances can change from person to person. Also, we may need to ask ourselves if we need something in return for our kindness in the first place? Think about that for a second.

“Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised rather than constantly disappointed.”

Imagine someone holding the door open for you, or seeing someone get up from their seat to let an elderly person sit down. Those small acts of kindness are out of the ordinary, that’s why they bring smiles to our faces. When we have more realistic expectations of the world, we’re allowing ourselves to be pleasantly surprised rather than constantly disappointed.

May your expectations constantly be exceeded, and may you feel pleasantly surprised often.

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