21 Mar 2013

The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions

“The whole world of control between humans is about making assumptions and taking things personally. Our whole dream of hell is based on that. … Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions, and believe we are right about the assumptions; then we defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong. It is always better to ask questions than to make an assumption, because assumptions set us up for suffering. …” ~ Don Miguel Ruiz

I am squirming uncomfortably as I begin to write this.

Could be because my laptop is very hot on my bare legs.

Or it could be that I am noticing how much of my own pain I create when I break this agreement.

Assumptions are mojo killers. And one of the biggest assumptions we all make is that everyone else sees the world the same way we do.

Professionally, I had a big AHA moment around this a few years ago.  I was managing a team of 20 and as a personal development exercise, we completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a group.

At the end, we all went around the room and shared our types…and I realized I was the ONLY person in the entire group who was an N (intuitive).

And I didn’t lean just a little bit that way….I was flaming!  As the leader of the group, this had the potential to be problematic, because my default assumption was that people always knew what I was thinking. And that they all thought like me.

Which, of course, they did not.

It was very clear to me that if I wanted them to be successful as individuals and as a team, I needed to do something to create a safe space for my peeps to ask me questions until they felt satisfied that they understood what I wanted. So, I invited them to do just that.….and made sure they knew I would not take it personally when questions started to come. This worked beautifully.

Doing this in my personal life is a bit more of a challenge.

More often than not, I find myself making an assumption rather than asking questions because I don’t want to look stupid or potentially start an argument. Funny thing is though, that’s exactly what ends up happening when I act based on whatever story I’ve created in my head!

The best way to avoid making untrue assumptions is really simple when you think about it.

All you need to do is ask questions if something is unclear. This can be uncomfortable because it puts us in a position of vulnerability. However, when we are willing to operate from a place of vulnerability and stop making assumptions, we ultimately eliminate most of our suffering and create more authentic relationships.

And that’s where the magic happens!

Dr. Anna Garrett

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