Agreement 3: “Don’t make assumptions”
By now, you can see how these agreements work together. When we make assumptions, we break the first two agreements. When we make an assumption, we respond in a way that is not impeccable. When we make an assumption, we often do so because we took something personally. Ruiz explains it this way:
The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking-we take it personally-then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word (64).
I assumed I was “stupid and worthless” because of what my father said and did. As a child this is natural. As an adult it is pathology. I assumed that I was “stupid and worthless” because of his words and actions. But, my father’s actions had nothing to do with me. They were about him and his own Hell. His words and actions were poisonous, and because I agreed with him and assumed he was correct, my internal assumptions and “word” became poisonous. Again, this may seem obvious, but the process of assumption making is at the core of many social, emotional, and psychological problems. We do it every day. When our spouse looks at us the wrong way we immediately think, “they are mad at me.” Rather than checking it out by asking our spouse what he or she is thinking or feeling, we often make an assumption and believe our assumption. If the assumption goes further, we react and create conflict. Maybe even saying something we regret. Or, maybe we look in the mirror and assume we are ugly, or when we find a spot on our body we assume we have some kind of killer disease and are going to die an early painful death. Our lives are constantly manipulated by our assumptions.
Think about how many assumptions we make when we hear or read media and why there is so much fear and confusion around “fake” news: some people assume everything they see and hear as being the truth, and others assume everything they see and hear as not being the truth.
The overused line, “never ASSUME, because when you ASSUME you makes an ASS out of U and ME” first used by Hollywood writer, director and producer, Jerry Belson in a 1973 Odd Couple episode, seems to have an inherent wisdom.
Ruiz reminds us that the cure for assumption making is to simply be willing and active in asking questions:
Have the courage to ask questions until you are clear as you can be…but even then, don’t assume you know everything there is to know about a situation…once you hear the answer you will not have to assume anymore because you will know the truth…without making assumptions, your word becomes impeccable. (72)
On writing: Just because someone doesn’t like our writing, don’t assume it is crap. And, just because we don’t like someone else’s writing, we shouldn’t assume it is crap. Richard Panek, a writer and faculty member at Goddard college, said in a recent blog post on The Writer in the World something to the effect that: “what others put on their page doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is what you put on your own page” (Panek). When we get caught up in what other’s are writing, and make assumptions that either their writing is way better than our own, or its just plain rubbish- and how the hell did they get published- we poison our own writing process in a self-induced fit of critical frigidity. Your job, my job, is to write what we got to write without making assumptions on if it is any good or not, or if it will sell or not, or if it will please this person or that person.
As a writer, I figure if I write something I would be willing to read myself, then the proof will be in the pudding. Allowing this for other writers, frees me from the drama queen of assumption making, and frees me to write what makes me happy. If I’m happy with my writing, then others will be, too. And if not, well, then that’s just plain old OK with me.
“Jerry Belson”. Wikipedia, 1 Nov. 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Belson.
Panek, Richard. The Writer in the World. unknown Blog Title and Publication Date, http://thewriterintheworld.com/.
Ruiz, Don Miguel. The Four Agreements. California: Amber-Allen Publishing. 1997.