The Four Agreements – The Assumptions We Make
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On the last episode, I spoke about “Don't take anything personally” – the second agreement from the book:
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
In this episode, I focus on the Third Agreement – Don't make assumptions.
Don Miguel Ruiz summarizes this agreement as:
- Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want
- Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama
Don't Make Assumptions
Easier said than done.
We have a natural tendency to make assumptions.
That’s not the real problem.
The problem is to believe that the assumptions we make are the truth.
As I referred to in episode 18, in Social Psychology, there are researchers who study how individuals explain their own behavior as well as that of others. I spoke about the Attribution Theory that helps us understand how people make these interpretations and attributions.
We can understand assumptions as a type of attribution we make about other people's behavior.
It’s the reverse of the coin of the second agreement – not to take things personally, because what others say and do is a projection of their own reality.
Following the same logic: the way we interpret what others do, is a projection of our own internal reality. It’s based on our personal stories.
Because we take our assumptions as the best explanation of reality, it’s easy to fall into the cycle of complaining and blaming others for what we feel and do – it’s their fault.
It’s easier to to try to make others wrong, than to have the courage to face our own gremlins.
Think of This scenario…
We send out a work proposal via email.
After a couple of days, still no response.
Our assumptions start to take over:
“I knew that I was asking too much.”
“They are ignoring my email.”
“After so much time I spent for free with them, they could at least answer.”
Why not pick up the phone and check what’s going on?
There are other possibilities that explain their lack of response.
And sometimes, even if our assumptions are true, remember, it’s not about you – don't take it personally.
For Instance, Imagine That…
We meet in a conference and have a great conversation, even exchange contact information.
Then, you are in the airport waiting for your flight to go back home.
You see me at a distance. For a moment you think I also saw you, but I walk away.
You can assume I have ignored you – and there is the possibility that you are right.
If your next assumption is that “I don’t like you” – you are probably wrong.
During a busy conference, I use all my extrovert energy to the maximum of my capacity.
As soon as I get into the airport, my introvert self takes over.
I usually withdraw from social interaction, and if I saw you and thought that you didn’t see me, I would probably walk away.
Nothing to do with you. Just me being too tired to interact.
The Point Is:
We are wired to make assumptions, yet, that doesn't make them true.
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How Can We Stop Our Tendency To Think Our Assumptions Represent Reality?
One possibility is to take the mindfulness approach.
Assumptions are thoughts.
We can recognize that we have them and then let them go.
Be present in the moment and don’t let ourselves get stuck in that specific thought.
Once again: easier said than done.
Yet, it’s a skill that we can master with practice.
Just by doing it, over and over again.
Become aware of your thoughts and feelings, accept them without attaching or reacting to them, then let them go.
We can make other people’s lives easier by communicating with them as clearly as we can, and be as impeccable with our words as possible.
And if you feel overwhelmed, just tune in for the next episode of this podcast.
I’m going to focus on the last agreement “Always do your best” and you will find how liberating that can be.
Don’t stay stuck on your assumptions, come back, listen and find out how “Always doing our best” can set us free from perfectionism – really 🙂