Monday, November 19, 2007

The Four Agreements

I was surfing through some other blogs I read, and I came across Maggie Mason's excellent summary of this book — The Four Agreements. I'm sure I've heard about the book before, although I can't remember where, but the advice on handling conflicts really struck me this time. Like Maggie, I can't bear conflict, and I seem to try to worry myself through it. The advice in this book, however, would be far more helpful. As Maggie writes, the four agreements are:

1. Be impeccable with your word.

Words have immeasurable power, so use them with care. Say only what you mean, and remember your opinion isn’t fact. Silence is better than saying something you’ll regret.

2. Don’t take anything personally.

Here I’ll quote the book, “Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.” That guy honking at you just spilled scalding coffee all over his lap, the boss screaming at you is going through a divorce. Their stuff has nothing to do with your stuff, and assuming you’re the root cause of someone’s behavior is not only self-centered, it’s also a big waste of energy.

3. Don’t make assumptions.

You can spend hours generating theories about why someone did something, or you can just ask. When someone lashes or does something unexpected, save time by seeking clarification.

4. Do your best.

Do the best you can with the conflict in front of you, and you won’t need to waste brain power on self-judgements or regrets.

When I can keep these guidelines in mind, I’m almost always able to diffuse a situation. Other benefits:

* Resolution comes more quickly because you ask for clarification instead of jumping to conclusions.
* You reduce time lost to stress because you don’t feel personally responsible for the other person’s anxiety or anger.
* Initial conflict often turns into a productive conversation and leads to a deeper relationship, because you come from a more compassionate place.
* You ideally come away without regrets, having resolved the situation instead of escalating it.

You can read her full post here: Resolve Conflict Quickly with The Four Agreements.

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