How to Let Go of Expectations and Opinions of Others
- I love you, but …
- Why not do it this way?
- Forget about it!
- I’m really disappointed that you ….
- I can’t believe you did this.
All of the above expressions, and more, are familiar to most of us. We think of them as an integral part of our interactions and relationships. This is how a mother tells her child that she cares. It is how a sibling communicates his advice. We all do it.
This article is not about what others say or do. It’s about what you expect of them. Do you catch yourself sometimes thinking of what others should or shouldn’t be doing? Do you have an expectation of how others should respond to you?
I used to think it’s part of our human nature—we can’t help ourselves. If we love people, we’re going to be critical of what they say or do. It’s only natural to expect certain feedback for what we say or do. These assumptions proved to be taxing both mentally and emotionally.
When I stopped to question my assumptions, I realized I was wrong. We always have a choice. We can choose not to have expectations and opinions.
Before we talk about the how, let’s explore why we do it.
Why do we have expectations and opinions of others?
The main three reasons that come to mind are below. Feel free to add more as you reflect on your experiences.
1.We think other people think as we do.
If something is logical to us, then it should be logical to others. The same goes for expectations. If we expect a certain outcome, then others should be thinking the same thing.
We don’t only think about our expectations, we start developing emotions too. If we’re excited, we expect others to feel the same and if we’re bummed, they should be too.
It is hard for us to recognize this unless we stop and reflect—people think and react differently. Otherwise, we will all be carbon copies of each other.
This doesn’t negate our common interests and shared aspirations. Imagine each person’s thoughts and emotions to be a unique imprint like their fingerprints or the way they look—specifically theirs.
2. We have ulterior motives.
As altruistic as our motivation may appear, we do harbor a desire for a certain outcome—one that gives us what we want or agrees with our stand.
Wanting to control the outcome raises expectations and paves the way for judgmental thoughts and opinions about others.
3. Insecurity and fear of change
When we judge others, we’re usually judging something we don’t like about ourselves. When we seek feedback, it’s because we’re starved for validation and approval. And we react strongly when we don’t get what we need.
The protective part of our ego can trigger fears about change. If we see others doing something we’re afraid of trying, our automatic response might be that they shouldn’t be doing it. They’re the crazy ones, not us.
How can you let go of expectations and opinions of others?
Letting go is not about giving up or thinking negatively of others. It’s about releasing our attachment to outcomes and eliminating the need for validation.
If we can address the three main reasons mentioned above, we can let go of the impulse to have opinions and expectations.
1. What’s your true motivation? Why are you doing or saying something? Is it based on a genuine desire to engage in conversation or to act in a way that reflects your truth?
Your motivation is the foundation of your thoughts and actions. Be honest with yourself. You might be able to hide your intentions from others, but you can’t hide them from yourself. If you try, you’ll create needless suffering.
2. Think of your expected outcome and the worst- case scenario. Are you okay with anything less than your ideal result? Can you live with it? If you can’t, revisit #1.
3. Have alternatives when you can. I’m a big fan of plan B. This only applies to situations where you are waiting for a certain response. Having alternatives helps you move on. If there is no alternative, peacefully close the chapter knowing that you did your part.
4. Don’t take things too seriously or too personally. Your expectations and opinions are yours only. The same goes for every other person—his or her judgments and opinions are theirs. This is a simple shift in perspective but can dramatically change how you interact with others.
You can move in the direction that’s right for you without personalizing what others say or do. You let others be.
5. Take inspired action. Act from your heart, not ego. Do what matters to you the most, regardless of challenges or naysayers.
The same applies to you what you say. Speak from your heart. Only say what you mean and in the best supportive way possible. Your words are very powerful, so let them reflect your truth.
6. Accept human frailty. You will slip and find yourself agitated or annoyed with someone. Don’t beat yourself up. Rethink and reframe—what can you do to accept the other person’s actions or position without judgment?
When others react in unexpected ways, give them the benefit of the doubt. They’re human too.
7. Forget about it. This is the essence of letting go—saying or doing something and then completely forgetting about it. You don’t sit round waiting for feedback or validation.
You have faith that things turn out for the best—no second-guessing or regrets. You accept the outcome as is while remaining open to guidance on what to do next.
When you let go of your opinions and expectations of others, you free yourself from attachment to specific results that are beyond your control. You can move forward with ease and clarity.
You interact genuinely, without hidden motives or disappointment. You become better equipped at embracing what others have to offer. Your newfound freedom creates opportunities for you to be of service to others in more intuitive and authentic ways.
To let go is to lovingly surrender to what is and be at peace with it.