The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions

The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions

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: IntroFirst 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:

  1. Assuming is safer than the truth, allowing you to live in a fantasy.
  2. Assuming is a great distractor from dealing with your feelings.
  3. 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


Your Assignment

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!

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7 thoughts on “The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions

  1. Kathy Quinn - May 21, 2018 at 2:34 pm

    Thank you Tracy! I am so grateful that I was curious to hear what you had to say when you appeared in my news feed on Facebook. Last week my husband went on an alcohol bender and I tried not to react (once again) you know lets not upset someone when they are out of their mind. As things unfold I realize that I was assuming he would get a grip after losing three jobs do to HIS behavior. this is not my first rodeo by any means, my first husband turned out to be an alcoholic as well. I guess after carefully looking at my assumption when I was dating them. First husband I dated for three years and the second for five. They were on their best behavior until I married them. Then all hell broke lose, first husband took only two years then the second took 23 years before he went off the deep end. I got a note from my now husband telling me he is throwing in the towel and I am running with this one. He maybe trying to create drama but I am done. So I agreed to the situation. Time for a divorce! I guess my question would be why in the world do I attract men like this even after careful review? I know the grass is not greener on the other side but I know I will be just fine! Thanks Kathy Quinn 🙂

    • Tracy - May 22, 2018 at 9:43 am

      Hi Kathy–I’m sorry for what you’re going through. We often assume when we don’t want to look at the truth. Awareness is so important and going toward what you fear step by step is what finally frees you. You may be interested in one of my recent blog posts: I will try to address this on my FB Live Noon PST every Thursday. Be well and take care of yourself.XOXO

  2. Christina - May 21, 2018 at 11:51 pm

    Dear Tracy,

    First of all, I want to congratulate and thank you for your effort to help as many people as possible through your podcasts and this blog series.

    I have read the Four Agreements and got rather sceptical. Some things were not “matching”, i.e. were not that consistent (in my opinion). Reading the two last posts on the Third Agreement (Don’t make assumptions) and the Second one (Don’t take anything personally), I got scpetical too.

    In the example you give about ‘Assumptions & Truth vs. Fantasy’ in an insecurely relationship, I am wondering how ‘not confronting the incovenient truth that maybe your partner does not want to commit to you” (so you assume other reasons) and how ‘being mirrors for each other’ are not pure personalisation.

    How are these consistent with that Ruiz says, i.e. “Whatever people do, feel, think or say, don’t take it personally… by taking things personally you set yourself up to suffer for nothing” or the respective “nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. It’s never about you” (see both in the post on Second Agreement)?

    This is rather confusing. To me at least. I’d really appreciate if you’d help me (and anyone else who may feel the same) to clear this out.
    Kind regards,

    • Tracy - May 22, 2018 at 11:15 am

      Hi Christina,

      I appreciate your comment.Thank you for your kind words. Not taking things personally and not making assumptions are very closely related because both are based on our own reality. If you can accept that other people have different realities than you (based on their beliefs, experiences, etc.), you can start to see their words and actions are about them, not you. This applies to both agreements as they go hand in hand. We assume we know what people are thinking, then we personalize it to make it about us. If you are expecting a text from someone and it doesn’t come, maybe you think it’s because he has met someone else. That is both assuming (you don’t know if he has met someone) and personalizing (you think it’s because you’re not good enough). They are different but often go together. If someone pulls away, it’s more likely because of their own fears rather than about you. If I have time, I will try to include a longer answer on my FB Live at Noon PST Thursdays. So …..Your question about this: “‘Assumptions & Truth vs. Fantasy’ in an insecurely relationship, I am wondering how ‘not confronting the inconvenient truth that maybe your partner does not want to commit to you” (so you assume other reasons) and how ‘being mirrors for each other’ are not pure personalisation.” You are to ask questions, as the whole way we avoid asking questions leads us to assume instead. Make sense? If we spend all of our time assuming and making fantasies up instead of dealing with the truth of a situation (not just by asking–but getting clear on WHY we are in this relationship where any detail of where either person stands is murky). As far as mirrors—EVERYONE is a mirror for you. EVERYONE. Things which are hidden in our subconscious can come to light by looking at how we judge the behavior of others and yet do not look for it inside of ourselves.That is it–you are not personalizing them at all–when you want to learn more about you and why you are in this position. You are using them to see you. When you personalize–you create stories. When you personalize you make the things they do ABOUT you. Two different things. Does this make sense? 🙂

  3. Christina - May 23, 2018 at 4:14 am

    Dear Tracy,
    Sincere thanks for your reply. Not very ‘straightforward’ for me this whole thing. Nonetheless, I really appreciate your taking the time to help me with it.
    Kind regards,


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