Welcome back to my blog series on “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz. If you’re just joining, you can access the prior posts here: Intro, First Agreement, Second Agreement.
Ok, let’s jump in!
Agreement #3: Don’t Make Assumptions
“The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth.”
— The Four Agreements, Chapter 4
The Third Agreement is closely related to the Second Agreement: Don’t take anything personally. We ASSUME our reality is the same as someone else’s reality, so we fit whatever they do or say into how we view the world. We cannot dive into another person’s head and know what they’re thinking… but we sure think we can. Do you ever read into texts, emails or even phone conversations and think you have the other person “figured out”? You believe you know their reason, intention or motivation, but that assumption is based on your reality and your beliefs. They are not you.
Remember this from last week… Your reality is simply that: YOUR reality. Their reality is THEIR reality.
Why do people assume? Here are a few common reasons I encounter:
- Assuming is safer than the truth, allowing you to live in a fantasy.
- Assuming is a great distractor from dealing with your feelings.
- Assuming allows you to impose your reality on other people, expecting them to think and act the same way you do.
Let’s break these down…
Assumptions and Truth vs. Fantasy
If you don’t ask questions, you can comfortably continue with the illusion that everything is ok. In an insecurely relationship, it’s safer to assume your partner doesn’t want to commit (whether it’s marriage or otherwise) because he’s not ready to settle down or his prior relationship soured him on the idea. So you assume the years away, afraid of confronting an inconvenient truth: maybe he doesn’t want to commit to YOU. And because we are mirrors for each other, that leads to asking where you’re afraid to commit and why you attracted this person in the first place.
Oh yeah, that’s scary. Who wants to go there?
Ruiz writes, “We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.”
These questions, I will add, are not just of others, but also of yourself.
Instead of having vulnerable, difficult conversations that could possibly turn your world upside down, you avoid them. What if he says something you don’t want to hear? What if his answer means you would have to leave him, something you can’t bear? Nope, better to live blissfully ignorant and assume it’s because of a story you’re more comfortable with. Or maybe you believe your love will change him–a very dangerous fantasy because you can never change another person. They have to want to change themselves.
Assumptions and Feelings
Building off the above, assumptions allow you to avoid your deeper feelings, the ones tied to your negative beliefs around rejection, abandonment, not being good enough, etc. If you assume rather than asking questions, you avoid confronting those beliefs, enabling you to stay in your cozy little fantasy.
But is that living fully and authentically? No, because you are operating from a place of fear rather than love. Assumptions keep you stuck in fear.
Assumptions, Expectations and Reality
When you assume, you attach expectations to outcomes, often leading to disappointment. If you’re sad, you assume your partner can pick up on how you’re feeling and know exactly what to do (i.e. give you a hug, make dinner, buy flowers, etc.). If he/she doesn’t do one of these things (your expectation), you’re hurt.
You believe if someone really loves you, they should automatically know how you feel and what you need. But remember–their reality is not the same as yours.
“We make the assumption that everyone sees life the way we do. We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse. This is the biggest assumption that humans make. And this is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others. Because we think everyone else will judge us, victimize us, abuse us and blame us as we do ourselves. So even before others have a chance to reject us, we have already rejected ourselves. That is the way the human mind works.”
–The Four Agreements, Chapter 4
Focus your attention on your assumptions. Trying to read someone’s mind, looking for meaning in what someone does/says or not getting the response you expect are all good clues. Each time you catch yourself making an assumption, write it down in your journal. Again, it’s important to do this without judgment. This exercise is about increasing your level of awareness, so don’t beat yourself up for the assumptions you make; it’s a pattern you’ve developed over many years.
Use simple bullet points, writing down what happened and the assumption you made. For example:
- Someone smiled at me in line at the grocery store
- I assumed she was interested in me, so I built this whole story around our life together by the time I got to the cashier
- My partner forgot it was his turn to make dinner
- I assumed it was because he resents having to cook, and is always looking for a way out of it
- My boss gave me extra work on a project
- I assumed it was because she doesn’t trust the other people on our team
You can see how assuming and personalizing are closely related. We assume we know what other people are thinking and feeling because we impose our reality on them, believing it’s all about us. What’s the antidote to assuming?
Ask questions. Be curious. Speak your truth.
“The whole war of control between humans is about making assumptions and taking things personally.”
The Four Agreements, Chapter 4
Ok, finally we come to The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best. In other words… you’re going to screw up and go against these agreements. It’s ok!