The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions

If you have been following along in our blog series based on Miguel Ruiz’s life-changing self-help book, “The Four Agreements,” welcome back! If you are just now jumping in, we are glad to have you. In this series, we are discussing ways to be set free from self-limiting beliefs.

The four agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

In the next few weeks, we will be diving into the third agreement. Let’s get started!

“Don’t assume. Instead, ask questions to avoid misunderstandings and pain.”

This agreement is closely related to the second agreement that you just read about. As we discussed how to practice that second agreement, “don’t take things personally,” we emphasized the importance of communication. This agreement brings the need to communicate into sharper focus.

My grandmother had a pithy saying, “When you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and ME.”

As the years go by, this saying has rattled through my head more than once.

We do not really know what others are thinking or feeling, but we certainly think we do. Have you caught yourself believing that you know what motivates someone, only to find out you were way off base?

We often think we know the reason why others behave the way they do, but the assumption that you know all about their motivation is based on your own reality and your own beliefs. However, that person is not you.

Why do people assume?

Back in the caveman days, making assumptions was a way to stay alive. If you saw your neighbor being eaten by a large cat with stripes, it was likely safe to assume that if you saw a large cat with stripes, you should run so you would not end up becoming lunch as well.

Our primitive brain is still active under all of the centuries of socialization. Assuming draws on past experiences to find patterns in how the world works. When we encounter new situations, we apply these patterns—or assumptions—to the new environment. This process saves us the energy of analyzing each situation completely anew.

But sometimes these assumptions can be very off the mark.

We will learn how to apply this agreement in the next article.