I was texting with a friend recently, and she was explaining how she had sent a certain text message to a certain someone, and was expecting a certain response.
And was still waiting for that response. And waiting, and waiting, and waiting.
Similarly, another friend did a kind gesture for someone in her life, and was waiting for that certain response.
And what happened when these people didn't get that response? They got mad, frustrated, annoyed. They felt wronged, or that their efforts had been in vain, or that they had put this work into the interaction, and surely the receiving party should reciprocate.
I think we've all been there-- doing something for a perceived outcome or reaction, deflating when that outcome isn't actualized.
"She didn't freak out over the present like I thought she would- I guess she doesn't like it."
"I never heard back from him- I guess I said something wrong."
"Shouldn't they know that when I said X, it meant Y, and so the appropriate response was Z???"
When I was going through my coaching training, one of the most powerful things that stuck with me was NATO. Not the political one, but the one that stands for Not Attached To the Outcome. It became a powerful reminder that whatever you put out in the world, you should do because you want to, because you believe in it, because it lifts you up. Not because you are expecting a certain reaction.
NATO becomes this big permission slip to say, "I'm going to do me, and leave you to do you." You can only control what you do and say, not how it lands.
Lest you think I'm sitting over here like a little fucking buddha, practicing non-attachment on my meditation pillow, serenaded by some sort of celestial soundtrack, rest assured- I'm not. This NATO thing comes up all day, every day for me. It provides a little trigger to centre me back. When I whip my shit into a tizzy because someone didn't call, because the feedback I needed to fawn all over wasn't what I expected or the universe didn't reciprocate my kindness-- I mutter, "NATO, NATO, NATO."
People may think I'm batshit crazy, or have a vested interest in the North Atlantic Treaty Agreement.
So sometimes NATO is reflective- reminding yourself that the outcome? It doesn't matter. Your initial action, full of integrity and honesty, is all that matters. That you are reaching out, sending the gift, giving the compliment because you honestly want to, and that is what fulfills you.
Sometimes NATO is like a magnifying glass, because it forces you to acknowledge that yes, you are really attached to this outcome. So you whip out that magnifying glass, just like my girl Nancy Drew, and get curious as to what you needed from that outcome. What that outcome shows you about yourself.
Did you expect an outcome because you wanted justice?
Did you expect an outcome as a proxy for love, care, devotion?
Did you expect an outcome because you were hoping someone had changed?
Because if you are looking for headpats or justice, you are looking in the wrong places. You need to get clear on what you need and ask for it. Or say it. Be clear, be honest, be real. Waiting on the reaction is like waiting for people to become psychic and read your mind.
So say what you mean, and don't dance around topics, or hope someone will just "get it." Investigate what outcome you're looking for, and why. And work on that, rather than waiting for that expected response. Life's too short to wait.