Synthesis & the Four Agreements
“Don’t Make Assumptions”
The more I think about the Don Miguel’s Four Agreements the more I appreciate the depth of thought and consideration he put into creating them as well as how powerful they are. In just four simple, elegant statements he identifies the most common pitfalls facing almost if not all of us in our quest for creating an empowered life filled with health and wellness, love, happiness and abundance in any area we desire.
If we look at the dynamics of human behavior from the perspective of Western science, particularly psychology, it seems like a very complex and convoluted phenomenon and that we are all at risk of catching or becoming some disorder or another; and yet here is this simple little guide that seemingly leads us to not only understanding the source and cause of the barriers and limiting beliefs, the psychological “conditions” holding us back, but also a realistic path to realistic solutions.
I absolutely love that idea as it fits so nicely with the fundamental principle of Synthesis: change, all change is simple. Whether that change is very easy or very hard is literally a matter of choice; it really is. And when we pause to consider the meaning of the Third Agreement, “ Don’t Make Assumptions,” it doesn’t take long to see how powerful this principle can be in easily and simply clarifying and improving one of the fundamentally most important aspects of our entire existence and tenure in this club called humanity—our interactions with our fellow members.
One of the first things I teach every new client and every new seminar class when I introduce Synthesis is that none of us sees the actual reality of the world; we instead create a perception or representation of reality through a set of “personal filters” comprised primarily of two components—how we use our favored sensory inputs—sight or sound or feelings, etc— and our internal emotional, behavioral and attitudinal programming.
Once these personal filters are formed, our perception of the world and the information it is sending to us—reality—is, in essence, distorted. We’re all seeing our modified version of it, and our versions are all different.
Let’s also consider the fact that our brains can process only a tiny fraction of the all the information coming in at any given moment; most of it is simply deleted. The result of this is that we tend to automatically fill in the information blanks with generalized and often incorrect conclusions— assumptions. When we then interact with others, who likewise have their personal set of filters, and thus a different perception of reality, and who are making their own assumptions to fill in their blanks, the potential for crossed wires and mis-communication and misunderstanding is enormous.
In short, assumptions can be and are deadly enemies to effective communication and interpersonal relationships. As stated so eloquently by one of my favorite actors, Henry Winkler, (who I met at a writing workshop many years ago) “Assumptions are the termites of human interaction.”
So, it is pretty simple to understand the personal power to be gained in committing to the agreement, “Don’t Make Assumptions.” But can we really do that that if we are all limited by our filters and deletions and thus subject to making assumptions as a matter of course? The answer is yes, and in Synthesis we lay out some simple and powerful techniques to assist us in doing so.
Three Steps to Stop Making Assumptions (most of the time)
1) Be aware—first and foremost commit to being aware of the fact that your perception of reality is just that, a perception based upon your filters. And remember that when you are interacting with another club member they have their own perception of reality, one that is very likely different than yours! If you can keep that salient fact in mind at all times or at least most of the time, you are well armed to avoid assumptions.
2) Be willing—in your interactions with others, it is vital to be willing to go along with your counterpart’s view of reality. They will almost always signal and communicate their view of reality to you, and if you interact with awareness you can consciously look for those signals and respond accordingly through their view. Chances are they will like you for it and you will get along nicely. (This is one of the rapport-building tenets of NLP, neuro-linguistic programming, one of many powerful tools in Synthesis)
3) Ask, Clarify and Attune—if you are in a communication and have any doubts about what the other person is feeling or intending to communicate, or if you catch yourself assuming something—hurray for awareness—ask them for clarification and then attune yourself with the information. An example I use all the time goes something like this:
Suppose we’re talking and you are in the middle of explaining your feelings about something to me, and you notice that I have broken eye contact and am looking up and away, sort of off into the distance. What does that mean? You might immediately assume that I have lost interest in our conversation and/or that I’m bored with it or you, and you might get put off by that.
Of course, my spacey, far-off look may, indeed, mean as much. (And it would indeed be egregious behavior on my part if you are a client and we are in session.) But… it might also mean that since I heavily favor auditory inputs when I process information, I am looking away to avoid being visually distracted because I really want to ensure that I understand what you are communicating. Or, it might mean that I am searching my internal data base and or asking for spiritual guidance as to how to address your issue and give you a great answer to help resolve your problem. You don’t and cannot really know, that is, unless you stop, ASK— “Hey, Dr. John, you look like you just checked out. Are you bored or something?” At that point I would CLARIFY my behavior and are back on the same page, we ATTUNE to one another’s view of reality.
So there you have it; three simple, easy and powerful steps to help you stop making assumptions. As Don Miguel says (and I completely agree—no pun intended) “With this one agreement you can completely transform your life.” Between us, I can almost guarantee it.
Next time we’ll be discussing Synthesis and the Fourth Agreement; “Always to your best.”
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