08 Apr The Four Agreements: #3 Don’t Make Assumptions
Humans have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. There are so many things that the mind cannot explain; we have all these questions that need answers. But instead of asking questions when we don’t know something, we make all sorts of assumptions. We have a powerful imagination, and we start to imagine all kinds of ideas and stories. We start imagining what other people are doing, what they’re thinking, what they’re saying about us, and we dream things up in our imagination.
The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth! We invent a whole story that’s only truth for us, but we believe it. One assumption leads to another assumption; we jump to conclusions, and we take our story very personally. Then we blame others and react by sending emotional poison with our word. Making assumptions and taking them personally creates a lot of emotional poison, and this creates a whole big drama for nothing. We make assumptions, we believe we are right about our assumptions, and then we defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong. We even assume we are right about something to the point that we will destroy relationships in order to defend our position.
Making assumptions in relationships leads to a lot of fights, a lot of difficulties, a lot of misunderstandings with people we supposedly love. Often we make the assumption that our partners know what we think and that we don’t have to say what we want. We assume they are going to do what we want because they know us so well. If they don’t do what we assume they should do, we feel hurt and say, “How could you do that? You should have known.” In any kind of relationship we can make the assumption that others know what we think, and we don’t have to say what we want. Most of the time, these assumptions are made so fast and unconsciously because we have agreements to communicate this way. We have agreed that it is not safe to ask questions; we have agreed that if people love us, they should know what we want or how we feel.
The biggest assumption that humans make is 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 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.
Making assumptions is all about thinking. We think too much, and thinking leads to assumptions. Just thinking “What if?” can create a huge drama in our lives because thinking brings fear. If not taking anything personally gives you immunity in the interaction that you have with other people, then not making assumptions gives you immunity in the interaction that you have with yourself, with your “voice of knowledge,” or what we call thinking. If we just stop thinking, we no longer try to explain anything to ourselves, and this keeps us from making assumptions.
Another way to keep ourselves from making assumptions is to ask questions until we are clear as we can be about a given situation. Once we hear the answers, we won’t have to make assumptions because we will know the truth. Our way of communicating will change completely, and our relationships will no longer suffer from conflicts created by mistaken assumptions.
Just imagine the day that you stop making assumptions with your partner and eventually with everyone else in your life. The day you stop making assumptions you will communicate cleanly and clearly, free of emotional poison. With clear communication, all of your relationships will change, not only with your partner, but with everyone else. You won’t need to make assumptions because everything becomes clear. This is what I want; this is what you want. If you communicate in this way, your word becomes impeccable. If all humans communicated in this way, with impeccability of the word, there would be no wars, no violence, no misunderstandings. All human problems would be resolved if we could just have good, clear communication.
Don’t make assumptions. By making this one agreement a habit, your whole life will be completely transformed. If you don’t make assumptions, you can focus your attention on the truth, not on what you think is the truth. Then you see life the way it is, not the way you want to see it. When you don’t believe your own assumptions, the power of your belief that you invested in them returns to you. Once you recover all the energy that you invested in making assumptions, you can use that energy to create a new dream: your personal heaven.
Excerpted from The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, Copyright © 1997 by Miguel Angel Ruiz, M.D., and The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self Mastery, Copyright © 2010 by Miguel Angel Ruiz, M.D., Jose Luis Ruiz, and Janet Mills.