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Losing the negative person in you - The key to improving relationships

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In the NBCNews feature, Insider, Maria Shriver invites participants to share experiences which have spurred them to act, reflect or create. In a recent installment, Don Miguel Ruiz, author of the international best-selling book, "The Four Agreements,” shared the art, literature, and life experiences which have inspired and influenced his life.

His book, is an inspiring distillation of Toltec wisdom which spent over seven years on the New York Times bestseller list and went on to be translated into 38 languages.

The book inspired readers around the globe with a set of four simple principles: be impeccable with your word; don't take anything personally; don't make assumptions; always do your best. These principles are critical to the quest to improve our relationships and ourselves.

We must look inward.

Too often, though, the messages we tell ourselves end up fueling damaging thought patterns that harm our self-esteem and prevent us from making positive changes. The Four Agreements (Amber-Allen Publishing) offers a simple code of conduct that can make a profound difference and help us lose the needless negativity.

The book’s author says his work is wisdom learned from his elders.

Since the book's debut, celebrities from Oprah to Ellen DeGeneres have embraced the book’s guidance, and executive and life coaches often recommend it as a clear and concise way to stay on course while navigating life’s speed bumps.

Ruiz’s belief is that everything we do is based on agreements we make with others, with ourselves and with whatever divine entity in which we believe. The most important agreement, he contends, is with ourselves, and framing it properly is the key to turning fear into freedom.

Here are the agreements and how they can work for you:

1. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using your words to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t make assumptions. (Pay attention: This is the agreement that may matter the most!) Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, drama and sadness.

4. Always do your best. This is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, put forth your best effort, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

Why do these agreements work? We have only one mission and that is to make ourselves happy, Ruiz explains. The only way we can be happy is by being who we are.

We create our story, he continues, but society also creates its own story. If you know that, whatever they say will not stop you from being what you are. Just by being what you are, other people will change but you don’t do it to change them. You do it to make your heart free.

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