Your “manuals” for other people

Yes, you have them. Part 1.

When we have assumptions or expectations about what people are supposed to do, we have “manuals” for them. 

We want people to behave in ways that make us feel good and happy. We usually don’t tell the other people what’s in our manual for them. And we usually don’t even realize we have these manuals or see how they’re causing us pain. 

We think that the other people should just “know” what to do and how to treat us. It can seem justified to have expectations of other people, but it can be damaging to us when our emotional happiness is directly tied to them behaving a certain way.

Many of us have manuals that come from the belief that we would be happier if someone in our lives would change. This is a huge cause of suffering because we’re handing over the power of how we feel to someone else.

Other people’s behavior has no impact on us emotionally until we think about it, interpret it, and choose to make it mean something. No matter what people do, how they act, or what they say, we don’t have to give others the power to determine how we feel.

Some common manual instructions might look like this: 

• He should text me back within an hour after I text him.

• She should listen to me for as long as I listened to her.

• He should spend less time at work.

• She should remember my birthday.

• He should know what I like.

• She should invite me when she has a party.

• He shouldn’t watch so much football.

• She should write me a thank you note.

• He should buy me something special on my birthday.

• She should support me.

• He should be emotionally available.

• She should ask me to be a bridesmaid, godmother, etc.

• He should tell me he loves me.

If there’s a “should” in there, it’s likely a manual instruction. These are simple and brief examples, but most manuals are pages and pages long. They’re complicated, detailed, and intricate. 

Rather than sharing these expectations with the person they’re about, those of us with manuals generally think the other person should just inherently know. We then want to make it mean that we are really loved by this person. And if they don’t do what’s in our manuals, then what do we feel?

Does it make sense why manuals can create pain for us? So what are we supposed to do instead? More on this next week.

Your turn: If you’re open to the idea that you have manuals for other people, what are the instructions you have for them? Would you be open to sharing the instructions as requests for the other person? If not, are you willing to see how these instructions might be causing you pain? Can you become aware of when you’re experiencing manual instructions for both yourself and for others?

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