Several years ago I read the book titled The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. In his book, Ruiz presents interesting perspectives on how people are able to build trust and also feel better about themselves and be more authentic. His writing enabled me to step back from a situation and become more objective, less judgmental and more open to dealing with someone in my life in order to improve our relationship. The most interesting thing was that the clearer I got about what I wanted and how I was prepared to communicate my point, without anger or revenge, the easier it was to deal with the person.
The following summary highlights some of the key ideas of the book. If this appeals to you, get the book and go deeper. If not, this may be a good reminder of what you can do to improve the way you communicate and the manner in which you build and maintain relationships with those closest and most important to you.
*The Four Agreements:
- Be Impeccable With Your Word
- Don’t Take Anything Personally
- Don’t Make Assumptions
- Always Do Your Best
Be Impeccable With Your Word
The broad scope of this concept is to avoid sin against yourself by what you think. Sinning against the self takes many forms: such as, putting yourself down, gossiping, or putting anybody else down because you don’t agree with what they think. Actions and words need to be consistent as part of being impeccable with yourself. The other side of the coin is the smoky mirror concept. Ruiz makes the point that our perceptions of others are merely reflections of ourselves. Therefore, to put another down or project negative words or energy towards another person is to lash out at them because of our own insecurities.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
There is an awful lot of negative energy out there and some of it is directed at us by other people. If you take all criticism personally you take on the poison of another’s words and create a negative agreement with yourself. What anybody thinks about you, or says about you, is really about them. Not taking it personally allows you to be in a relationship with anyone and not get trapped in their issues or end up carrying their baggage for them.
One caveat I would add is that some input should be given serious consideration. When a person that is truly interested in your wellbeing provides objective feedback, view it as a learning opportunity as it may be revealing a blind spot that needs improvement.
Don’t Make Assumptions
When we assume that we understand what others say about us, the looks they give us or what their actions mean, we often misinterpret their intentions. Our assumptions and perception of their actions often lead us to think badly of ourselves or of others, and causes us to not be impeccable with our word. Our perception is generally not the way others see the same situation. When in doubt check your perception to discover the perspective of others.
Always Do Your Best
Your “best” is a variable thing from moment to moment. “When you do your best, you don’t give the Judge the opportunity to find you guilty or to blame you.” You can always say, “I did my best.” There are no regrets. The other key to doing your best revolves about being in action. “Action is about living fully. Inaction is the way that we deny life. Inaction is sitting in front of the television every day for years because you are afraid to be alive and to take the risk of expressing what you are. Expressing what you are is taking action. You can have many great ideas in your head, but what makes the difference is the action. Without acting on an idea, there will be no manifestation, no results, and no reward.”
*The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, Amber-Allen Publishing, San Rafael, CA (1997).
I’d encourage you to reflect on what you have just read and consider who can you apply The Four Agreements with in your own life. These concepts work equally as well in business and personal relationships. Caution – don’t interpret Ruiz’s recommendations as permission to go and tell everyone what you think or “give them a piece of your mind”. Start by working on yourself. My experience has been that the better I get at improving my communication and relationship building skills, the better others become at responding to me.