I’ve got a mystery for you:
Why is it that I keep meeting really wonderful people? How come that most people I come across are kind, friendly, helpful and thoughtful?
That goes for strangers, fleeting relationships as well as friendships.
And here’s another one:
How come so many of my acquaintances complain about people being rude, thoughtless, careless, incompetent and worse?
Enter the self-fulfilling prophecy.
A self-fulfilling prophecy is a belief that comes true because that belief causes us to act as if it were already true.
The explanation as to why I keep meeting really wonderful people is because I absolutely believe that people are wonderful, so the ones that come into my life behave the way I expect them to – and I imagine that the same is true for those acquaintances of mine whose experience is disappointing.
Before I list some of my behaviours I need to make it clear that I wasn’t aware I was doing it! I only realised when I started researching the subject after reading an article about it!
Here are some examples of my behaviours:
I smile, I listen, I accept without judging, I’m curious, I’m friendly. My body language is open.
When it comes to self-fulfilling prophecies, behaviours which are driven by our expectations and focus (on what’s good rather than on what’s irritating) tend to be mirrored by the other person. In other words, they tend to respond in kind.
Here’s an example:
When I was still married, Jim was the techie one. He was very computer-literate whereas I used to be totally intimidated.
Whenever anything techie came up, I’d expected him to sort it.
When we parted company, whenever any techie problems came up I’d hire a specialist to sort them out.
I can’t tell you how much money I spent!
When I simply couldn’t afford it anymore I was forced to fall back on my own resources and I realised I had two:
- Persistence or sheer pig-headedness,
- The internet
Whether I choose to throw up my hands in despair and tell myself I’m useless at this particular thing or engage my curiosity (“see if I can sort you out”) and determination that “you’re not going to get the better of me!” affects how I feel about myself and, from there, how I feel about my life – frustrated, defeated, helpless or confident and proud of myself for achieving what I never thought I would.
This is a decision that can permeate other areas of your life and become yet another self-fulfilling prophecy – positive or negative.
On the negative side. There are other beliefs that trigger a self-fulfilling prophecy which are potentially far more serious, for example the ones we hold about other people.
When I was married to Jim, I kept focusing on all the things that irritated me about him until he became that person which, of course, proved I was right all along.
I now make it a point, deliberately, to focus on the things I like and love about somebody – whoever they may be and, guess what, my expectations lead the self-fulfilling prophecy to manifest the best in that person. Why? Because of the way I behave towards them and, sometimes, they even exceed my expectations!
A by-product is that, when the expected behaviour doesn’t happen, instead of blaming them or assuming they didn’t care, I assume there was a good reason for whatever did or did not happen. Or I just think, “give them a break!” or “lighten up!”
The principle of self-fulfilling prophecies can be your belief about yourself (limiting beliefs) that cause you to not bother trying because you ‘know’ it will make no difference.
Or it can affect your relationships as I mentioned earlier. The way you treat others will be reflected in the way they respond to you.
There is masses of anecdotal evidence about the effects of the self-fulfilling prophecy.
One was a study about expectations. This particular case study was of a wife who feared her husband was going to leave her. She had that fear because her father had abandoned the family when she was little. What she couldn’t understand was that her husband was not her father.
She began to test her husband to see how far she could go before he’d lose patience which she interpreted as proof that he planned to leave her. Over time her behaviour eventually pushed her husband to the limit and he ended up leaving which, of course, she interpreted as proof that she’d been right all along.
Research by Rosenthal & Babad in 1985 found that “When we expect people to behave in certain ways, we are likely to behave in ways that make the expected behaviour more likely to occur”.
As you can see, self-fulfilling prophecies can have a profound effect on relationships, not just with your partner but with everybody which come about by the way we communicate with each other.
The good news is that the self-fulfilling prophecy can work in your favour. Here are 3 ideas about how you can make it so:
- Top of the list is to start noticing what you focus on.
If you catch yourself becoming irritated with your partner, for example, think back about what attracted you to them when you first met. Focus on those things and start to actively appreciate everything they do (and mean it!)
- Challenge your limiting beliefs about what you can and cannot do.
Henry Ford, the inventor of the automobile who died in 1947 is believed to have said “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
- Expect the best in people – from your partner, your child, your siblings, parents or friends.
Stop blaming and criticising and start acknowledging and thanking them for every little thing (seriously!)
Try it out! What have you got to lose!
With love and gratitude,
P.S. If you believe I can support you, please contact me on email@example.com or text me on my mobile – 07903 795027 for a free, no obligation Obstacle Smashing Exploratory Session.
You will walk away with at least 3 options to get you started on a happier path – whether or not you choose to work with me.