Invisible Expectations: The Covert Contract

Mar 11, 2024

A friend invited me to sit in his box seats at a Utah Jazz game completely free. The game was an absolute blast and everyone there had great food and a great time. During the game my friend was as fun and boisterous as everyone else. It was a fun memory. A few weeks later I saw that same friend and he was surprisingly cold. Where before we were laughing and bonding now it seemed like there was a distance between us. This friend later shared that he had given me something so cool and for “free” because he expected me to connect him with some of my friends that could buy his services. The trouble was this was never communicated. I simply thought I was going to an NBA game with some friends. His expectation was that I would reciprocate in kind or give him back more value. We talked about it and are still great friends today.

There is a currency circulating in the world of interpersonal relationships, an unseen currency called “Covert Contracts”. Covert contracts are a well paved path straight into disappointment. These interactions are silent expectations that come from doing something 'Nice' for someone with an unspoken obligation attached. They operate under the radar, often leaving a trail of misunderstanding and resentment. 

Consider the old adage, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”...without actually saying those words or having mutual agreement on how you are benefiting each other. ’Imagine extending a favor with a hidden expectation of reciprocity. “Hidden” being the keyword. It's like saying, "I've done something nice for you, now you owe me." Unaware of this silent agreement, the person receiving the favor may fail to fulfill their end of the bargain. Not out of malice, but simply because they are ignorant of your expectation to receive something in return. 

Being able to see covert contracts we create, and ones others create can make navigating the complexities of human connection much easier. Ask yourself honestly, "What is my motivation for doing nice things for others? Am I doing it with or without an expectation of getting something in return?"

Covert contracts represent the unvoiced expectations we harbor when we are being nice. On the surface, these actions appear altruistic. But if you look a little deeper, they are, in fact, transactions. The 'nice guy' or 'nice girl' embodies this concept, where a nice action is extended not merely for the sake of being kind but as an investment, expecting a return. 

This could range from expecting a smile in return for a greeting, chores as a payoff for a meal,  love in return for love, or a business favor in exchange for a similar business favor. These expectations often seem perfectly reasonable to the one who sets them. The problem is that they aren’t being communicated. The other person is unaware of the agreement they are making—the covert contract they are signing—and cannot consent or negotiate their part in this exchange.

This covert system, the product of niceness, fosters resentment and erodes healthy relationships. Covert contracts attach invisible strings to every interaction, turning relationships into transactional experiences. NFL Hall of Fame quarterback, Steve Young, talks about genuine connection(love) vs. transactions in his book, The Law of Love Kindness, on the other hand, builds trust and love within relationships. Genuine kindness is unconditional. It expects nothing in return; it is an expression of love, compassion, and respect with no strings attached. 

Unraveling these contracts starts with being honest and self-aware. Acknowledge the difference between being “Nice” (with expectations) and being Kind(expecting nothing in return) . Are we extending kindness to truly benefit the other person, or are we seeking validation, recognition, or another specific reaction? The distinction lies in our motivation. True service is selfless. It doesn't seek acknowledgment or repayment; it simply seeks to give. 

The invitation is to unravel these hidden agreements to nurture authentic connections. It's about transitioning from being 'nice'—with its hidden expectations—to being truly kind, where our actions are free from the endless cycle of repaying. 

This journey from conditional to unconditional kindness is not just a path to deeper, more meaningful relationships; it leads to personal liberation. By freeing ourselves from the expectation of return, we open our hearts to the joy of giving for the sake of giving.

Counterfeit emotions often masquerade as genuine feelings, ensnaring us in a web of unmet expectations and fabricated narratives. By recognizing our covert contracts, we gain emotional authenticity and foster genuine kindness. This transformation takes dedication, courage, and a commitment to change. Take it one act of unconditional kindness at a time.

The difference between 'nice' and 'kind' serves as a powerful reminder of our capacity for growth. As we navigate our relationships, let us strive to replace covert contracts. Let's embrace kindness without strings, serving others not for what we might gain but for the joy of giving. In doing so, we not only enrich the lives of those around us but also discover the profound fulfillment that comes from genuine, unselfish kindness.

Being able to seeThis is the realm of covert contracts we create, and ones others create can make a concept that merits a deeper exploration, especially as we navigating the complexities of human connection much easier.

Covert contracts represent the unvoiced expectations we harbor when we are being nice. On the surface, these actions appear altruistic. But if you look a little deeper, they are, in fact, transactions. The 'nice guy' or 'nice girl' embodies this concept, where a nice action is extended not merely for the sake of being kind but as an investment, expecting a return. 

This could range from expecting a smile in return for a greeting, chores as a payoff for a meal, or love in return for love, or a business favor in exchange for a similar business favor. These expectations often seem perfectly reasonable to the one who sets them. The problem is that they aren’t being communicated. The other person is unaware of the agreement they are making—the covert contract they are signing—and cannot consent or negotiate their part in this exchange.

This covert system, the product of niceness, fosters resentment and erodes healthy relationships. Covert contracts attach invisible strings to every interaction, turning relationships into transactional experiences. NFL Hall of Fame quarterback, Steve Young, talks about genuine connection(love) vs. transactions in his book, The Law of Love Kindness, on the other hand, builds trust and love within relationships. Genuine kindness is unconditional. It expects nothing in return; it is an expression of love, compassion, and respect with no strings attached. 

Unraveling these contracts starts with being honest and self-aware. Acknowledge the difference between being “Nice” (with expectations) and being Kind(expecting nothing in return) serving and saving, caring and caretaking. Are we extending kindness to truly benefit the other person, or are we seeking validation, recognition, or another specific reaction? The distinction lies in our motivation. True service is selfless. It doesn't seek acknowledgment or repayment; it simply seeks to give. 

The invitation is to unravel these hidden agreements to nurture authentic connections. It's about transitioning from being 'nice'—with its hidden expectations—to being truly kind, where our actions are free from the endless cycle of repaying. 

This journey from conditional to unconditional kindness is not just a path to deeper, more meaningful relationships; it leads to personal liberation. By freeing ourselves from the expectation of return, we open our hearts to the joy of giving for the sake of giving.

Counterfeit emotions often masquerade as genuine feelings, ensnaring us in a web of unmet expectations and fabricated narratives. By recognizing our covert contracts, we gain emotional authenticity and foster genuine kindness. This transformation takes dedication, courage, and a commitment to change. Take it one act of unconditional kindness at a time.

The difference between 'nice' and 'kind' serves as a powerful reminder of our capacity for growth. As we navigate our relationships, let us strive to replace covert contracts. Let's embrace kindness without strings, serving others not for what we might gain but for the joy of giving. In doing so, we not only enrich the lives of those around us but also discover the profound fulfillment that comes from genuine, unselfish kindness.

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