The book The Four Agreements (buy direct) by Don Miguel Ruiz offers four basic principles for living, which you can apply to every aspect of your life including your friendships. The book has touched many individuals and even changed the way they approach their life and relationships.
I've read the book many times and highly recommend it. Here are some of the ways you can apply The Four Agreements to your friendships.
What Are The Four Agreements?
Each "agreement" in the book The Four Agreements is a guiding principle for your life. You can apply each agreement to your live as a whole, to your friendships, or to specific situations. You'll need to read the book for the definition and true understanding of each agreement. They are:
- Be Impeccable With Your Word
- Don't Take Anything Personally
- Don't Make Assumptions
- Always Do Your Best
How to Be Impeccable With Your Word When It Comes to Friendship
It often isn't just about what we say in friendship that gets us in trouble, it's what we don't say. Being impeccable with our word means being saying only what we mean, and using our words to express love and caring.
For friendship, this can mean:
- Showing up for things you promise you say you'll be there for.
- Being gently honest with a friend but not sharing your opinions just because you feel the need to convince your friend to change their mind.
- Speaking honestly and truthfully about you and your friend.
- It can also mean avoiding things like gossip, embellishing your own accomplishments, or hiding your problems when a friend asks if anything is wrong. To truly change your friendships using this agreement, understand that your words (written and spoken) have power.
In a recent interview, Ruiz explained that being impeccable with your word always means that "you don't put your nose where nobody wants it. You don’t have the right to try to fix other people's points of view."
We often get frustrated with friends who don't share our opinions or viewpoint, but this agreement reinforces the reality that we can enjoy a variety of friends in our life and yet still let them live the life that they prefer to live. We don't need to be combative or try to change their opinions just because they don't agree with ours.
Not Taking Our Friend's Words Personally
Friendships can end over words, even when they aren't meant the way they are taken. A friend that says something negative to you might make you question or feel bad about yourself.
Therefore, the agreement "Don't Take Anything Personally" means that everything your friend says (even the good things) are from your friend's viewpoint on life. This means that when a friend criticizes you, it's about them, not you.
But the same goes for compliments. While they are nice and fill us with good feelings, compliments shouldn't be "taken personally" either. Take them with a grain of salt, appreciate them for what they are (your friend trying to express kindness to you) but don't make them define who you are. If you do this, you'll also start believing the negative things your friend might say.
This concept also applies to new groups of people we encounter and new friendships we are trying to form. People don't always say the perfect thing when you meet them. You might hear someone you don't even know gossip about you and as a result you'll let it prevent you from making new friends with another individual in the group.
It's also okay if you decide that someone is too negative to be friends with. This agreement shows you that you can rise above hurtful words simply by forgiving them and moving on without drama.
Don't Make Assumptions About Your Friends
The third agreement involves assumptions. It's so easy to assume things. We fill in the blanks when we don't hear from friends or when we have time to think about things too long. There are five basic things never to assume about a friend, but it goes deeper than that. If you look at this agreement as an overall approach for your friendships, you'll avoid:
- Getting angry with a friend over a misunderstanding.
- Worrying that a friend had a different meaning behind a comment that was made.
- Thinking that all our friends share our opinions about things.
- Believing that our friends are wrong because they react differently to a situation than we would have.
To avoid making assumptions, don't dwell on situations and try to read new meaning into them. If you're not sure about something, talk to your friend about it. If it isn't really important enough to talk through, then just let it go.
This agreement is especially helpful when meeting new people. Never assume things about a person just because you met them and liked them. Take the time to get to know them without judgment.
Always Do Your Best in Friendship
The final agreement ("Always Do Your Best") helps reinforce the fact that friendships (and people) aren't perfect. That's okay. We're not always going to do the perfect thing, however, we can always do our best. This means that we can:
- Fully listen to our friends (not just half-listen while we wait for an opportunity to vent or talk about things we want to discuss).
- Communicate clearly with our friends to avoid misunderstandings
- Take responsibility for things we do or say.
- Be present when we're with our friends (without trying to look at our phone at dinner or giving our attention to something else).
- Monitor our intentions.
- Using thought when buying gifts.
- Being kind because that is what friends do, instead of expecting something in return.
Living the four agreements is a process, and it takes time. You can also find that you "slip" back into old patterns at times, even after you have committed yourself to change. That's okay. The point is to continually work on these four approaches so you can enjoy more real, honest, and fulfilling friendships.