In his classic book, The Four Agreement, Do Migul Ruiz describes the first agreement as the most important. The agreement is “Be impeccable with your Word.” While this seems fairly straight forward it takes on many subtle and profound aspects as you begin to practice this agreement. It sounds very simple, but in fact the most difficult agreement to honor. Yet, if maintained, it is very powerful and transformative. Think of the times that you were angry and used unwise words that results with profound consequences. If you could have only able to keep your mouth close or say the right thing, then you would to take your anger to more constructive places.
Impeccable means acting with the highest standard. In other words, being your best self. When you judge or blame yourself or others for anything, you act exactly the opposite. On the other hand, when you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your words without judging, criticizing, blaming or gossiping. You, also, honor your commitments to only make commitments that you intend to follow through on. Words are powerful. While anger can be made worse by the words you use, words can defuse anger and de-escalate negativity if used wisely.
Judgment, analyzing, criticism or blaming of others are all alienated expressions of our own needs and values. When others hear critique, they tend to automatically act in self-defense or counterattack. If we are looking for understanding and a compassionate response from others, it is self-defeating to focus on other people by interpreting or diagnosing their behavior. Instead, the more we focus on ourselves and directly connect our feelings to our needs, the easier it is for others to respond compassionately to our needs. When people talk about what they need rather than what’s wrong with one another, a collaborative atmosphere is established that open greater possibility for finding ways to meet everybody’s needs.
When you use your words to exaggerate the difficult times other people are having, and, you make people feel understood and validated. Rather than saying a “commanding statements such ‘It is…’, you can use ‘could be…’, ‘may be…’, ‘might be…’ Phrases like this allow more room for discussion, and are less likely to trigger an outright pushback because you’re not directly challenging people’s points of view.
Also, when one partner begins talking while using a harsh startup, such as being negative, accusatory or using contempt, the discussion is basically doomed to fail and escalation takes place. On the other hand, when one partner begins the discussion using a softened startup, the discussion will most likely end on the same positive tone. So, remember to start softly and say things like: This is what I’m hearing… Have I got the wrong end of the stick? Am I right in saying…? Is it possible that..? I’m wondering if…
When we communicate without criticizing, analyzing, blaming, or diagnosing others – describing our observation, sharing our feelings, and clearly and respectfully asking for our need, we are more likely to inspire compassion and cooperation.
Moshe Ratson (MBA, MS MFT, LMFT) is a Licensed Couples Counselor and Marriage Family Therapist as well as Executive Coach based in NYC.