“People do what people do” is an adage my husband and I learned several years ago when we were leaders working with a team of volunteers. As young go-getters, we had high expectations and eagerly expected follow-thru from the volunteers’ well intended commitments/promise of action. While some people were great, there were some that surprised us with their lack of follow-thru in different areas, and we began to feel frustrated. Not wanting to feel this way toward people, we stepped back to evaluate what was happening and what we should do or change. (Reading this, you may be on the volunteer side thinking we need to be more lenient or apply more understanding towards others, or if have been in leadership, you may know that is to be expected and/or share in commiserating with the quandary and challenge.)
So, as we reflected on what was happening, we learned the sentiment that “people do what people do,” meaning, if you have a person who has been quick to produce in the past, given a similar context, more than likely he/she will be quick to produce in the future. If a person has been a quick volunteer but backed out a number of times in the past, more than likely you will need extra hands on that task as it is highly possible they might back out again. (I am not suggesting you walk around judging and labeling people without a track record and then putting them in a box based on one or two interactions; I am suggesting that people’s track records generally preceed their behavior).
This has been a principle we have applied in leadership, our personal and professional lives. It helps to remind ourselves of human behavior, manage your expections of others and see them for who they are rather than expecting them to be something different then who they are. It has applied in many situations: volunteerism, work, marriage, kids, and people in general. This little thought was just a quick way to reframe, plan accordingly and manage our expectations. Most people have good intentions and are influenced by their personality, situation, influences, life circumstances, etc., It does not make them bad or wrong, it just is what it is. It is generally true that a person will do what they have done in the past.
This is not to be used to judge or tell someone who they are or what they should do, but to help you plan and manage your expectations of them. Also, it is not telling someone else how they should act, the observation of behavior is simply telling you how they are. That is why it has been said for years, “Actions speak louder than words.”
Does this make a person hopeless to change? Absolutely not; but change comes from within and a persons desire to change; not someone else desire for you to be different then you typically are. This is a personal principle for you to get what you need vs. expecting other to change. Therefore, my encouragement is to reduce your frustration of people acting different then you like, try to see people through how they are and work with them in that light.
If you don‘t agree, remember it is said the best predictor of the future is history. When you study history and new developments, you can see how that is true. As humans, we are always unpredictable and unique; however as humans, we are creatures of habit and behavior. Sometimes we are not even aware of it ourselves, but step back and consider: do people in your life do what they have always done?