Interpretation of Part 9: Assume Not

How many assumptions do you make in a day? Do you know? I am not sure that I know how many I make. Even though I have been working on implementing the Third Agreement into my daily life for a few years now, I can honestly agree with Ruiz, in Part 9, when he says that “they happen so fast that…we make assumptions unconsciously all of the time”. This is how we learn to co-exist, so as children we are taught to stop asking questions, or not to ask too many questions. Many parents are guilty of using the “do as I say” method of child rearing. In schools, teachers limit the number questions that students may ask, or admonish children when they don’t ask the “right” kind of questions.

At some point, we get the message that we should stop becoming curious about the world; we stop viewing the world through the lens of a scientist and we start to believe we know all of the facts and that our position is always the right one.  Worse – we stop having empathy.  I am still, very often, guilty of assuming that others think the same way I do.  When I was younger, it angered me when people I thought loved me didn’t know how I felt or what I wanted.  I couldn’t muster the courage to ASK for what I wanted.  This was not a productive way to conduct relationships and consequently many of them failed.  People got tired of trying to read my mind and walked away….I lost friendships and a marriage.

My relationship with my father remained strained until my mid-30s.  I wanted to believe that everything that was wrong with me was caused by him.  In some ways that was true, but I never once looked at the situation from his side.  I tried too hard to change his demeanor to be more like mine, or to believe what I believed and couldn’t understand why he didn’t see issues the same way I did.  That moment I stopped trying to change how I expected he should be, I was able to accept the way he is.  I also forgave myself for not liking some of those things either.

For me, I think that having empathy for others, being able to in some way put yourself into another person’s shoes, helps to apply the Third Agreement.  When we agree that we won’t make assumptions, we decide that we want to understand what the other person’s viewpoint is.  In order to do that, we must ask them questions.  But, we must ask those questions with the intention of wanting to learn about another person – we must come at them with an open mind, free of assumptions.

Ruiz takes this a step farther and applies this to ourselves.  We often make assumptions about what we are capable of, what we like or don’t like, who we love or don’t love, where we want to live, etc., etc.  I was in a relationship for two years with someone because I wanted to believe that they were someone they truly were not, based on a list of assumptions I made in my head about who that person was.  Rather than look at the truth, I damaged myself beyond recognition to live the lie.  I mistakenly assumed that I could love him enough for the both of us.

In simpler context, take my loathing of brussel sprouts, that I have carried on since I was child, for example.  I have been served these many times over at dinner with friends, or out at a restaurant, only to leave them on my plate and have someone offended that I didn’t eat them.  Then, a few months ago, I had to ask myself, “Why don’t you like brussel sprouts?”  To which I had no logical answer and therefore decided it was time to make amends.  Low and behold, those little f**kers are fantastic!  Who would have thought?  And now I can honestly say that I like brussel sprouts!  But, this never would have happened unless I let go of old assumptions.

Same goes for those negative thoughts we hold onto about ourselves that we are “no good”.  Have you ever challenged that thought?  I challenge you this week to write a list of why you think you are “no good” in one column.  Then in the next column, I want you to write a rebuttal next to each statement – something that your best friends would say to refute the lies you tell yourself.  Keep going with this point, counterpoint exercise until you abolish these old assumptions you have carried on about yourself for far too long.

Keep asking questions, my friends!