Here's an example. Kylei and I talk daily, and I'm used to this. If all of a sudden Kylei stopped seeking me out to talk, I would be surprised and worried and probably lonely, but I would not be angry or hurt. I would go to Kylei and say, "I feel like you've stopped reaching out to me because of x, y, z, and I'm sad about it. What's going on? is this intentional? what can we do about it?" However, if Kyle and I had made an agreement that we would talk every day and then it didn't happen, I would feel hurt and angry because I would feel lied to. I would go to Kyle and say, "I am very upset that you didn't do this thing you agreed to do. I feel lied to. What happened?" and then after the hurt feelings were dealt with we would discuss a way of changing the agreement to make it more likely to be kept.
Because I know that broken expectations hurt me and cause difficult conflict, I rarely make them. I prefer to have well-adjusted hopes, and have expectations only with regards to growth-plans. I can tell the difference between the two because with an unfulfilled hope, I feel disappointed by the situation. With an unfulfilled expectation, I feel wounded by the person who didn't do what I expected.
My baseline expectation for my friends is that they will not deliberately hurt me: and unless I've communicated that something will hurt me or it is something that would hurt the least-sensitive person I know, I do not call it deliberate. I consider myself to be in a constant state of teaching people about my sensitive spots: we're all different and predicting rather than asking is an easy path to harm. I hope people will also patiently teach me about their spots and assume that I'm doing my best with the information I have.
This also has to do with me answering "maybe" to all invitations unless I am SURE I can go. I see a "yes" as me allowing them to create an expectation, which I then need to uphold in order to avoid hurting them (although sometimes I fail at that). Although the reverse is not true: it was, until I learned that most people do not say "yes" in the same way, and in order to avoid being hurt I changed that expectation-habit into a hope.
One of my friends recently posted on the subject of expectations and how having a "people should always do X for people they care about" attitude is problematic. First, people do not all have an equal amount of resources, and you can't tell from the outside how much a person has to spare. What would be easy for you could actually be incredibly damaging for someone else. Additionally, if you're comparing how much you've given to how much you're expecting, you're using investment thinking: you're not giving freely but are investing for future returns. My way of avoiding this is to ask myself: "if I never get anything back, am I still content to do this?" and if the answer is no, I won't do it. People sometimes get upset with me about this, but I prefer that to me feeling stolen from. If I want to maintain my boundaries and not make non-consensual expectations, I need to make sure I am not giving more than I can afford to give: making a giant gift that I will then suffer for if it is not returned is irresponsible self-care.
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