Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements transformed the way I think about communication with myself and with the people I love. I know for some the spiritual undertones can be off-putting, but for many of my clients over the years it has offered really powerful wisdom.
The overall theme is that four simple yet profound rules can have an enormous impact on our life and relationships. Focusing on each of them has helped me live a more intentional, integrity-fueled life and build more mindful connected relationships.
These agreements not only apply to life in general but are absolutely critical in dating. I’ll dive deeper into each of them below. You can also download this beautiful printout of all the agreements to help you keep them in focus.:
Agreement 1: Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using your words to speak against yourself or others. Use the power of your words to grow truth and love.
Being clear with your intentions, expectations, and boundaries in relationships is the best path to connection and the only way to avoid misunderstandings.
When I began to focus on this agreement I noticed many innocent lies I told throughout the day. I might run into someone I know and say “we should get together sometime” knowing I would never truly follow up. These white lies add up, and wear on us over time. And for many of us this culminates in a pattern of over-promising and over-committing in relationships. Committing to this agreement means being really honest with yourself and others all the time.
I also appreciate the focus of this agreement on being really mindful of the words we choose to create a life and commit to a narrative that works for us. The stories we tell ourselves have direct impact on our happiness and the ways people around us respond to us. Take care in choosing the stories you hold as true, and the ones you share.
Agreement 2: Don’t Take Anything Personally
Realize that nothing others do is because of you, but instead a projection of their own reality, self-work, and dreams. When you are immune to the opinions of others it will free you from needless suffering.
Let me be clear here: I’m not saying you should stop caring about anyone else. But most of us care a little too much. I see so many folks tied up in anxiety and conflict because they are too closely connected to their partner’s feelings- or worse, their perception of their partner’s feelings.
This is huge when dealing with rejection. Once you accept that rejection isn’t personal, it starts to roll off your back. Maybe your partner had a bad day, maybe someone in their past was a jerk, or maybe they’re just unhappy- unrelated to you.
Their emotional experience is beyond your control. You can help them feel a little better, but their choice to feel better does have to start from within. There’s no value in stressing about something that’s out of your hands and not about you.
Now, of course there are times something you’ve done will spark a reaction in someone else. You can still own your mistake or the impact you had on someone else without taking it personally. That might sound like responding “I’m sorry, I was running behind, and that resulted in you being late and nervous.” instead of “I am sorry I’m such a jackass. I always mess this stuff up.” Can you feel the difference?
It’s really important you take responsibility for your actions and work on improving it to minimize negative impacts on others. But don’t let it determine your self worth or define your character.
You can do better- and you will.
Agreement 3: Don’t Make Assumptions
Ask questions and communicate as clearly as you can about misunderstandings. Stay curious about yourself and the others around you to create room to honor each of your individuality and growth.
I’ve written extensively about this in the past, so I won’t bore you here, but staying curious about your sweetheart is the easiest way to avoid growing stagnant and bored in long-term relationships. Invest energy in understanding them instead of assuming they’ll never change.
The same goes for yourself. Stay curious about your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to others- there’s always plenty to learn and the more you assume you know, the less self-awareness you are likely practicing.
Most of the couples I see stuck in struggle are clinging to resentments, assumptions, and misinterpretations without really exploring them. These keep us disconnected and often lead to bitterness. Nobody wants that.
The path to fulfillment is learning and growth- neither of which will happen without a little curiosity.
Agreement 4: Always Do Your Best
Your best will change moment to moment (with your health, energy, and experience) but by investing the best of yourself you’ll avoid self-judgment and regret.
So often the regrets we beat ourselves up about are the times we didn’t act with intention, integrity- or as our best selves. Committing to doing your best all them time helps us avoid regretful missteps.
But committing to always doing your best doesn’t mean becoming a perfectionist, or striving for some high-level output 100 percent of the time. Doing your best also means being clear with yourself and those around you about what you can do, how you can show up, and what you can give moment-to-moment and say-to-day. The more mindful you are of your internal state, energy level, and competency in the different and changing areas of life, the better equipped you’ll be to communicate this with the people you care for.