My freshman year of college I expected everyone to like me. On the second day of class I walked into my suitemate's room, gave her a warm greeting, sat close to her, smiled, browsed through her room acknowledging our similar tastes in music and then left. My suitemate was NOT expecting someone like myself to barge in. She had been sitting in her room in a melancholy state which, she would admit, is her usual demeanor, when I entered into her life with a bang. She admitted to me that her first impression of me was "snoopy." Yet she will also say that the valence was positive. She saw in me something that was positive that had high reward potential--she called it my "spunk." With positive valence, our friendship has grown immensely. I violated her expectations for a suitemate and became her best friend.
At the end of last year my roommate was hanging our with a bunch of our friends late at night and one of the guys started playing with her hair and continued to do so for the rest of the night. This unexpected violation of her personal distance surprised her, but became a very pleasant experience. She was forced then to reevaluate their relationship as friends. Even if a romantic relationship did not evolve, this violation brought them closer together as friends and gave greater definition to their relationship.
I never will forget how rejected I felt when I ran up to my former high school mate and gave her a hug. You see, we weren't good friends, but she went to my high school and I thought that because I decided to attend Wheaton College, that she would welcome me.
Our all Black high school was really small with only 100 students. So when I got accepted to Wheaton and was told that a former student of my high school attended Wheaton, I was thrilled. I assumed that because there were few Black students on campus, my former school mate would greet me with warmth. It is an unspoken rule that when Black people are few in number that they stick together, support one another, and edify one another--it's part of our culture's history. So when I saw this girl on campus that attended my high school, I quickly greeted her with a hug, but she didn't hug me back--just stood there. I felt so stupid and rejected.
Later in the year, I learned that she isn't a "touchy" person and rarely displays open affection for others, except for those people whom she knows really well. So, I learned how to adjust to her views on physical touch. I smile when I see her, but I don't greet her with hugs unless she initiates them. Surprisingly, she sometimes does, but these occasions are few. I guess once she was more comfortable with me and had many occasions to evaluate me, she feels more at ease.
Last week I had lunch with a friend of mine who I met last year. I had seen him around a lot during the first week of school, and one day both our lunch appointments were no-shows, so we decided to eat together. After lunch we walked out of our dining hall and he walked me all the way to my dorm. He proceeded to hold the door open for me and said good-bye very courteously. In hindsight, I can see how EVT was in play here.
Obviously, my friend violated my expectations because I never expected him to walk me all the way to my dorm. Considering that our dorms are in complete opposite directions, I would have never predicted that my friend would walk me out of his way to get me back; after all, our relationship is solely a friendship, and it isn't a "norm" here for guys to walk girls back to their dorm after a meal together. The violation valence definitely weighed in positive with me, and thus my friend's action was a good thing. Because the violation was positive, the reward valence was somewhat less significant in how I viewed the violation. I will comment, however, that this good-looking violator, who is universally liked on campus, offers me a lot of reward potential because of his status. So the question arises...am I glad my lunch date was a no show last week? But of course!
I believe that people who don't really know me that well think of me as a nice girl who would not be fond of sarcasm or teasing. Take for instance my relationship with my boyfriend's mother. We know each other relatively well, but since they are from North Carolina and only make a few visits to Wheaton a year, our relationship is not deep. I would say that even though we have a relatively shallow relationship, it is one that is positive. A couple of visits ago, my boyfriend's car needed an oil change, and his mother was trying to find a garage where his car could be serviced. I responded in a serious manner and stated that, "I am very good with cars and could change the oil for him", which is a complete lie. His mother totally believed me, but then I was quick to tell her I was just teasing. My unexpected teasing comment violated her expectations of me as a nice, non-teasing girl. Now I can tease with Mrs. Koontz and we laugh together. Our relationship has become more informal and I am more comfortable around her. In the future if I perceive an initially positive relationship with someone, I will not hesitate to do something that might violate his or her expectations of me.
In high school, even my closest friends and I rarely touched. Physical touch was the lowest love language for each of us, and so we showed each other our deep friendship in different ways. Yet, over the past couple of months, I have begun and grown in friendship with a senior girl named Grace. When we first met, it was through mutual friends and no physical contact was exchanged, despite her hugs with other friends. My birthday was last month, however, and I was walking into class when suddenly, I heard pounding footsteps and was soon thereafter embraced with a shout of “Happy Birthday!” This encounter was certainly one that violated my expectations because I had just recently come to call Grace a friend and I was outside the quiet Grad School lobby on the second floor walking to class. Though this experience breached my expectations, I immediately considered the event to be positively valenced. To me, a hug can be an ambiguous behavior because I am not a “touchy” person, so I then went on to consider the actor/communicator rather than the act itself to determine how I felt. Knowing Grace, it was clear that the act of hugging was an attempt to celebrate me and make me feel loved, and her recent warmth and reception towards me aided in my positive evaluation.