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The Four Agreements Applied to Work

There are books that can change your life, or at least help change your perspective. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is one of those books. In this post, The Four Agreements will be applied to work in order to help you better communicate, alleviate stress, and eliminate conflict.

1. Be impeccable with your word: Conflict at work is often a result of miscommunication. We may send an email and receive a heated response, leaving us wondering, “What was that all about?” It’s often a result of someone misinterpreting what we’ve said. At work we can be in fear mode, stress mode, or annoyed mode. We quickly fire off an abrupt email without pausing to consider how this email may come across. Our communication is coming from what we need versus considering what the other person needs or how they may perceive our words.

Before communicating at work, remind yourself to:

  • Have empathy – put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand their needs instead of coming across as insensitive and selfish

  • Eliminate ego – avoid needing to be right and instead, be open, be curious and be willing to let go of your own agenda (this is a tough one, I know!)

  • Be clear – people are not mind readers so ensure your communication is easy for others to understand. Don’t leave room for misinterpretation

  • Have integrity – Hold yourself to high standards when communicating

2. Don’t take anything personally: Our buttons can easily be pushed at work. We can’t believe someone could be “such a jerk” or “so difficult” or such a “a pain in the you know what.” What we have to remember is that people are reacting, responding, and behaving in a certain way based on their upbringing, their life experiences, their emotional state, their level of stress, and the amount of inner work they have done.

If someone has a very messy inner world and they are consumed with negative emotions, they may not be the easiest person to work with. With these types of people, we need to have compassion towards them and not engage in an ego battle. If someone is that angry and difficult, it’s a major sign they are extremely unhappy and are dealing with their own demons.

As an example of taking things personally, a client told me about a certain leader in his organization who came across as brusque and cold in his emails. Initially my client took the leader’s emails personally and found his curt responses to be quite rude. Then my client learned this was simply the leader’s communication style and the way he communicated with everyone. This was such a key learning for my client and a reminder not to take things personally. So often we can quickly react before taking a step back to ask ourselves, “Am I taking this interaction personally?”

3. Don’t make assumptions: When we are working in fast-paced environments and are living solely in our analytical mind, we can be way too quick to make assumptions. We forget to pause, reflect, and have a bigger picture of the situation that encompasses both an IQ and EQ perspective.

For example, we could get frustrated a colleague isn’t pulling his/her own weight on a project. We find ourselves feeling resentful, angry, and creating a story in our heads about how incompetent the colleague is at work. Then we may come to find out our colleague is dealing with a lot of stress due to personal reasons and therefore his/her work productivity has been impacted. Instead of coming from a place of assumption, we could have instead come from a place of understanding. We could have checked in with our colleague to see what was going on and how we could possibly help.

4. Always do your best: Each day we need to ask ourselves, “Am I living up to my full potential? We can get our job done and go through the motions or we can challenge ourselves to go above and beyond at work. For each of us, we need to define what “Our Best” is and what it means each day.

When I am dealing with a tricky situation at work, I ask myself, “If I was the CEO, what would I do?” This simple question helps me move beyond my own ego and understand the bigger picture at hand. It also allows me to make the best decisions from a company and employee perspective.

Often I see coaching clients mired in frustration over a business decision they don’t agree with and as a result, they end up in victim mode. I ask them, “If you were the CEO, what would you do?” It’s as though the light bulb suddenly turns on and they have an “Aha” moment. Their frustration and anger turns to understanding and they are not longer in, “Whoa is me mode.” They are able to get over their own petty grievances and understand why a certain decision was made or action taken.

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