We were loading up our plates at the buffet lunch, all the while networking and chatting, somewhat absentmindedly selecting food from the wide array of options.  As I sat down to eat I was excited about the mushroom dish and quickly dug in.  My brain was anticipating a warm mouthful so, when the coldness of the forkful made itself apparent, I had a little bit of sensory shock followed quickly by a wave of disappointment.  What the heck? Why?

The thing is, when we expect someone or something to be a certain way, reality that doesn’t measure up is disproportionately disappointing, much more so than if we went into the experience without any preconceived ideas.

A recent project at Stanford university found that in a blind taste test of red wine, when participants tasted two wines, one expensive and one not, they reported enjoying the more expensive wine more.  Not surprisingly, perhaps, and also not surprising that the two wines sampled were identical.  Here’s the real surprise, though:  fMRIs taken during the tasting showed that not only did the subjects report their greater enjoyment, the functional MRIs correlated with a greater sense of pleasure from the “expensive” wine.  The upshot is, expectation of greater pleasure actually resulted in greater pleasure being experienced.

We see this quite a bit with people in the workplace who appear to be very young. They almost all report having to struggle to gain crediblity and to be heard but what many of them don’t appreciate is the bonus potential in being UNDER estimated.  In the same way we punish those who don’t measure up to expectations, we also reward those who surpass them.

If you are someone who isn’t sure how to manage the expectations of others, give me a call