My expectation of you is my experience of you

Welcome to the Pygmalion effect: a psychological principle that describes people’s propensity to live up to the high expectations you hold of them. Coupled with its brother, the Golem effect, (producing the same, but opposite effect - people perform poorly when expected to) it is clear that the way we view someone’s potential has a lot to do with how much of it that person expresses when in our company.

I remember a mentor of mine from years ago giving me a job I felt unqualified for. I had no evidence I could do the job. I felt I had no training or real experience and was concerned about my performance. But he was not. He knew l could do it, so he hired me and let me give it a go. And true to the phenomena, I rose to his expectations and went far beyond my own. There was something about his utter faith in my abilities that had a real impact on my psyche. Maybe I tried harder; maybe I always had it in me. Who knows.  Either way, the result was the same.

The people around us, our colleagues, our friends, our partners and our children are all impacted by our beliefs about what they are capable of…for better or for worse.

So maybe now is good time to stop, take a moment, and ask yourself “what do you believe about them?”

Coaching questions:

  • How is your expectation of others impacting your experience of them?

  • And more importantly, how can you think of them differently to get a different result?

  • What needs to happen for you to grow your image of them, so that they may grow further into it?

  • How are you inviting others into their potential (Pygmalion)?

  • How are you stifling their growth (Golem)?