“It is when we lose control that we repress the emotions, not when we are in control.”
― don Miguel Ruiz
Communication is messy.
And contributing to the chaos is the proliferation of platforms, tools and media choices. We have so many ways to express ourselves, but we still can’t seem to connect productively. Perhaps it’s because the cluttered landscape distorts, dilutes and deflects our messages ― as opposed to streamlining, synthesizing and simplifying them.
Another complicating reality is our basic humanness. In the words of Dale Carnegie, “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” That terrain can be very tricky to navigate.
Ultimately, the spontaneous combustion of these factors requires a new way to approach each other and communication. That’s why I find the 4 Agreements are so useful ― even essential to my sanity.
Let’s review. The two we have already considered are ― “Be impeccable with your word” and “Don’t take anything personally.” Both are powerhouses. Thread those needles, and you will be well on your way to peace and oneness, but the other two definitely complete your foundation.
Agreement 3: Don’t make assumptions.
We are human beings with distinctive experiences and perspectives, so we are veritable assumption machines ― generating them about everything all the time. These are the stories we tell ourselves in our heads. The difficulties emerge when we start believing these stories as truth ― operating on autopilot. It can become unconscious mayhem.
We see what we have been programmed to see ― products of our families of origin, epigenetic trauma and our own unresolved wounds. My lens is unique ― as is yours. Unfortunately, these unconscious and conscious assumptions rattling around in our heads impede authentic dialogue. Often, they fuel a dysfunctional cycle that leads to defensiveness, blame and mortal combat. So much of our pain and suffering stems from this process, and it’s hard not to draw a parallel to our current national polarity and tension. But if we communicate with clarity and mindfulness, maybe we can avoid or work through these misunderstandings. This one agreement could completely transform your life.
Yet, we all need to find the courage to ask questions and express ourselves ― without shame or fear of reprisal. This one really resonates with me. As a recovering over-functioner, I have lived most of my life making up stories about situations and then reacting to them. Grateful for the amazing help I have received along the way, I am now working on acknowledging the needs of my frightened inner child ― realizing that relief and peace are not “out there” somewhere, but inside. My work now is to consciously develop healthier boundaries ― and rewire the damaging habit of taking responsibility for the unpleasant behaviors of those around me.
ACTION ITEM: Begin to notice your assumptions. Perhaps, even write them down for a day ― someone who cuts you off in traffic, a board member in your Homeowner’s Association who behaves defensively, or a colleague at work who is still supporting Trump. Oy! Then, take a look at your thoughts about these encounters ― and remind yourself that you do not have all the data. Go through the list and feel yourself let go of the absolutes ― as you allow yourself to embrace your real power.
Agreement 4: Always do your best.
This one sounds like kindergarten, but then, doesn’t that make sense? This is really more of a stance than a directive. The specifics may vary from moment to moment or day to day. In any circumstance, simply know that you are doing your best, and you will avoid that feisty inner critic and any potential regret.
I like this agreement, because it reminds me of what a gift imperfection can be. (I love Brené Brown and her teachings on this.) We do not need to be perfect. We just need to do our best ― and that’s enough. I am enough. It’s about holding an intention to be the good we seek in the world but also being gentle with ourselves and others in the process.
ACTION ITEM: Begin by “noticing what you are noticing,” as Mary Morrissey says. It all starts with awareness, and noticing when that insidious inner voice says things like, “you should,” “you can’t,” or “you’re supposed to.” Make the choice to be at peace with knowing you are doing your best in this moment.
And, breathe. Always a good choice.