The Four Agreements – Social Skills that Everyone Should Learn
Every time I read up on the Four Agreements, I think the same thing. They apply to anyone with a pulse as far as I’m concerned, especially in modern times. Populations are growing and there’s an ongoing trend to move nearer to cities and share closer quarters with others. There’s more reason than ever to study and implement the Four Agreements. A book published in 1997 by the same name, authored by Don Miguel Ruiz is described in Wikipedia as: “Ultimately, it is about finding one’s own integrity, self-love, and peace by way of absolving oneself from responsibility for the woes of others.” Let’s look at them one at a time.
Be impeccable with your word.
- Speak with integrity. The dictionary defines integrity as adherence to moral and ethical principles or soundness of moral character. Now, thing about how much respect do you have for someone who is always grumbling, lying, complaining, and tattling? People who whine, lie, or sneak behind your back to your boss all the time are hard to be around. In contrast, I’ve also been around people who are truly bothered by my integrity, and spend a lot of time thinking of just the right things to say and do to undermine it or make me look bad to others.
- Say only what you mean. We all know someone that hedges or “beats around the bush”. This makes it really easy for people to wrongly interpret the meaning behind your words or inject drama into your hesitation.
- Don’t gossip. We all know this one too well in this day and age. I have never worked a job in my life that wasn’t drowning in people eager to gossip. I know I’m not alone when I say I’ve heard thousands of stories about people’s relatives, friends, and co-workers. When someone tries to tell me “juicy” gossip about someone else, the only thing it does for me is tell me the truth about the gossiper; never tell them anything important about your personal life, and this person is absolutely gossiping about you to others behind your back. For your own integrity and reputation, steer clear.
- Only speak in the direction of truth and love. This one is a no-brainer. Think about how you feel about the person who is always speaking out of anger or frustration or fear. Not someone we want to get to know or rely on for anything, right?
Don’t take anything personally.
- Nothing others do or think is because of you. I have issues with this one. I think a lot of us are wired to think this as kids. We look to our parents to help us feel good about who we are becoming, and when we mature we continue to look for that validation in others. I need to center myself and focus on the moment. I remind myself that I have little if nothing to do with whatever is going on in their lives or their thoughts. A lot of people suffer from this one. I find it fascinating that our own projections and thoughts can create such a difficult suffering and anxiety. It really is all in your head and you are the only one responsible for getting rid of it.
- What other people say and do is a projection of their own reality. Everyone builds their own past, present, and future. No one knows exactly how you view your own reality. It is uniquely yours.
Don’t make assumptions.
- Ask questions and express what you really want. I’m guilty of this one, too. I assume a lot. I work with someone who assumes I always know what’s going on, even if I’m not part of the situation or conversation. It is also loud where I work one of my jobs and people always assume I hear them when I just see their lips moving. I also have difficulty actually coming out and saying stuff because I’m so concerned with how people will react to things. I know someone else who is so unsure of herself she would rather work under a stressful situation than speak up for herself.
- Don’t compare yourself and your situation to others. Your own ideas and thoughts only apply to you and your life path. What you think “should” be is just your opinion. When someone compares what they would do in your situation, it only brings negative with it.
Always do your best.
- This one is more personal. Doing your best will prevent self-judgment and regret. I think it is really important to teach this one to children at a very early age and keep it going. I see this one slipping a lot in society and it is partly because people aren’t taught it anymore and partly because people can’t see a reward worthy of the effort they make.
- Your best isn’t always the same. I love those days when I feel “switched on” at work and do a great job. But, if you aren’t feeling well or are dealing with something emotionally taxing, give yourself a break. No, it isn’t as great as those great days, but if you give it your best effort, you can eliminate any of those feelings that you didn’t’ give it your all.
There is actually a Fifth Agreement written at a later time by Ruiz.
Be skeptical, but learn to listen.
- Don’t believe yourself or anybody else. Question everything you hear. Sometimes I feel guilty about this one, like I think everyone is lying and thinking negative thoughts is tantamount to denying love. But, if you think about it a different way, it really simplifies everything. It puts words into perspective. They feel less important, hold less meaning, have less value, and therefore don’t need to be said. This compliments the first agreement. I know my life would be greatly improved with less banter and unimportant conversations and more focus on using words only when necessary.
- Listen to the intent behind the words. Words are a dime a dozen. If you look back into the history of language, we have injected words a lot more meaning than was intended. It is still the unspoken actions and behaviors behind the words that relay the true message.
These agreements can be transformative and amazing. If you study and implement them, your relationships at work, home and in any social situation will improve beyond anything you can imagine. Your reputation will improve, and your self-esteem will improve. Your sense of self-worth will improve and those around you will find you trustworthy, reliable, truthful, and honorable. People will look up to you as a role model and aspire to be more like you. You can tell them about the Four Agreements and change their lives, too.