The Four Agreements Conflict Resolution Module 1


The Four Agreements Conflict Resolution Module 1
Conflict Resolution
Module 1
The Four Agreements
This Conflict Resolution information series, made possible through a grant by the Kansas
Supreme Court Office of Judicial Administration, is presented by the Self-Help Network
Center for Community Support and Research at Wichita State University.
Self-Help Network is a Wichita State University center that helps strengthen communities
and organizations by providing facilitation, research, and information. SHN supports a
variety of community efforts, creating and sustaining positive community change by ensuring
that all Kansans have a voice and share their talents and experiences to create thriving,
supportive communities.
Introduction to the Four
At the end of this introduction, you will be able to:
List the four agreements
We store information through agreement. When we believe something is true, it becomes an
agreement between us and the world. As soon as we agree, we believe it. This cycle leads us to
develop rules or “laws” that govern what we see as true. We come to base our judgments and
decisions on these agreements and laws. When we, ourselves or others, break our “laws” we
experience the negative aspects of conflict or drama.
We also develop an “image of perfection” or “dream world” based on how we think things “ought
to be” to fit our rules or laws. This image can lead us to reject things that don’t fit into our dream
world, even leading us to reject ourselves when we don’t fit into our own rules. In order to be
“good enough,” we form “rules of perfection” for ourselves and others. Unfortunately these rules
can lead to conflict when we or others break our rules and don’t fit into our image. Have you ever
found yourself saying “If only…?” When you ask “If only…?” you are describing your image and
rules of perfection. For example “If only she would pay her debt to me.” “If only he had told the
Do you feel your life is sometimes full of drama when things don’t measure up to your standards or
when you are in conflict? The purpose of conflict resolution is to reduce drama in your life. “Drama”
is the pain and conflict created in our lives when things don’t measure up to our image of perfection
and laws.
One effective way to reduce conflict and drama is to adopt “The Four Agreements” and break old
agreements that are based on fear and cause us to feel powerless. We will explore The Four
Agreements in this conflict resolution module.
Be impeccable with your word
Don’t take anything personally
Don’t make assumptions
Always do your best
*This set of tools is adapted from The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, Amber-Allen Publishing, San Rafael Publishing, California. The
Four Agreements is available at, or at any local or online bookstore.
Agreement One:
Be impeccable with your word
At the end of this lesson, you will be able to:
Describe what it means to be impeccable with your word
Practice being impeccable with your word
To be impeccable with your word means to:
Speak with integrity
Say only what you mean
Avoid using words to speak against yourself
Avoid using words to speak against others
Use the power of your word for truth and encouragement
Our ability to use words sets us apart as humans, but this ability is also a two-edged sword. Words
can create and words can destroy. When we misuse our words, we can create major problems, but
using our words impeccably heals and empowers others.
Not only does gossip destroy others, but it is also produces conflict and creates drama. Gossip works
like a computer virus. Once it is introduced, your thoughts become mixed up and you stop
producing good results. With gossip, one little piece of information can break down other
communication. Gossip infects everyone it touches. With a computer virus, we have safety
precautions that tell us “Don’t open this file” because once you do, it’s too late. When we gossip, we
act like hackers who intentionally spread a virus to destroy how others think and to cause drama.
Keep in mind that your opinion is just your point of view and not necessarily true. Remember, your
opinion comes from your own dream world, your own beliefs and “rules.” When you speak well of
people and yourself, and when you stop yourself from demanding everyone live by your rules, you
feel good and at peace with yourself. Use your words to speak truth and to encourage yourself and
The Telephone Line
Sit in a circle and have one person start a “rumor” by whispering a one sentence statement to the
person to his or her left. The statement should be something that is simple like, “Did you know that
Lance Armstrong recently won his sixth Tour de France?” Once you whisper the statement to the
next person you cannot repeat the statement. Send the statement around the circle one person at a
time and have the last person say what they heard out loud.
Questions for discussion:
Did the statement change?
If the statement changed, how could confusion have been avoided?
What would you have done to make sure you understood the statement?
Agreement Two:
Don’t take anything personally
At the end of this instruction, you will be able to:
Describe what “Don’t take anything personally” means to you
Practice not “taking anything personally”
Nothing other people do or say is because of you. What people do or say is a result of their own
dream world. When we take things personally, we feel offended and react by defending ourselves,
creating drama.
It is important to understand that people may give compliments or criticism, but what they say is
about them and how they feel at that moment and about their own needs. What they say is not just
about you.
When we avoid taking words personally, we take away the power other people try to have over us.
We become immune to manipulation. If you refuse to take things personally, even if someone is
trying to draw you into their dream world and is being critical, you can remain peaceful.
When someone asks you to do something, listen intently and repeat what the person is asking. Don’t
take the request personally even if it is presented with criticism or with a compliment. You can
simply ask, “You would like to…” or “You want me to…” to clarify the person’s request. Be sure to
clarify if you correctly understand what someone is communicating to you.
Set limits by being impeccable with your word. Use your words to speak truth and to encourage
yourself and others. There are several techniques that can help:
Use “I” statements.
Don’t put yourself down.
Don’t use excuses or blame others.
Offer any possible alternatives.
Use this role playing scenario to practice not taking anything personally and to set limits.
As a consumer leader, you are asked to sit on a state level policy-making committee. You attend
several meetings where you are warmly greeted but your input is not asked for. In fact, you believe
your opinion is being ignored by the chair and other members of the committee. You are beginning
to feel like a “token consumer.” This is made worse by the fact that you seem to be the only
consumer on the committee. When you ask about this you find that there are two other consumer
appointees that don’t attend very often. When you talk to them, they don’t share your concern
about consumers being ignored.
How might you address this situation?
Remember: Use “I” statements to explain how you feel. Don’t put yourself down. Don’t use excuses
or blame others. Explain possible alternatives.
Agreement Three:
Don’t make assumptions
At the end of this instruction, you will be able to:
List ways to avoid making assumptions
Understand the “ABCs” of emotions
Identify ways to calm an angry person
The ABC’s of emotion tell us about how and why we make internal assumptions. First, there is an
Activating event that helps us set up an assumption. Then, we establish a Belief system. This belief
may be either rational (based upon observable, factual data) or irrational (not based upon facts).
Finally, we develop a Consequential emotion that is triggered by our belief. It is important to
recognize when an irrational belief could be beneficially changed to a rational one.
We tend to make assumptions about conflict, namely that all conflict is bad and should be avoided.
However, while some might view conflict as a contest to win and something to avoid, conflict is
often times a good way to explore other points of view and to discover opportunities to grow.
We create drama by making assumptions, by taking it personally, and by gossiping about our
assumptions. We perpetuate this by not asking for clarification, defending our assumptions, and
trying to make someone else wrong based on our assumptions.
To avoid making assumptions, it is important to gather more facts about the situation and about our
own beliefs. It is also important to gain knowledge about the facts, about how others perceive the
situation, and about your own beliefs.
To calm an angry person you can:
Stop talking and give your attention
Acknowledge feelings
Seek additional information
Don’t assume
Restate your understanding of the
State areas where there is agreement
Brainstorm a “preferred future”
Identify all the possible solutions
Agree on next steps
“Listening is the greatest
gift one person
can give to another.
It is often the key to facing
and resolving conflict.”
Joyce Herman
President of Joyce Herman Consulting
Rochester, New York
Use this role playing scenario to practice addressing conflict.
You are the executive director of a consumer run organization (CRO). The same people clean up
every week at the CRO. There are 30 members at some activities yet only two or three help.
Recently, these volunteers have been complaining and taking things into their own hands. The other
day one of the volunteers shouted at a member who was not helping. The member yelled back that
he was not paid to clean up and that the volunteer should “let the staff do it.”
How might you address this situation?
What assumptions do you have about this matter?
What are some possible explanations for this behavior?
Should this conflict be avoided? Why, or why not?
What positive outcomes could this conflict have?
What’s an appropriate way to discuss this situation?
Who should be involved?
What are the goals of the discussion?
Agreement Four:
Always do your best
At the end of this instruction, you will be able to:
Use “your best” to live up to the other three agreements
List the techniques used to do your best
Identify ways to keep conflict positive
Your best is never going to be the same from one moment to another. Regardless of the quality,
keep doing no less than your best. Accept your best and recognize that it feels good to give your best
because doing your best feels productive and is not based on expecting a reward.
Do your best to live up to the other three agreements:
Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Work for “Win/Win” instead of “Win/Lose” results. Since dissatisfaction drives people to change,
you should do your best to uncover the dissatisfactions of others. Remember to avoid focusing
on the problem, but rather to work toward a solution. Focusing on a problem reduces energy,
results in blaming, and leads others to see their resources as limited.
Develop a “preferred future.” Ask what it would look like “If we got it right…”
Set rules for brainstorming. Good rules for brainstorming include:
• Don’t judge ideas
• Don’t discuss ideas
• The more ideas the better
• Build on others’ ideas
Bring new resources to the table.
Set your first steps to explore other’s opinions or implement an agreement.
Use the following tips to keep conflict positive:
Try not to become angry.
Don’t let your anger control you. Instead, you should control your anger.
Seek to “understand” before you are “understood”
Calm your mind
Remember The Four Agreements
Breathe in slowly through your nose until you fill your lungs – breathe out slowly through your
Take a “Time Out”
Slowly count to ten
Take a short walk
“Good” vs. “bad” conflict will be further discussed in Module 2—Good Conflict vs. Bad Conflict.
Use this scenario to practice doing your best and using all four agreements to resolve conflict.
You are a member of a CRO and accept part-time employment in a retail store. Since you are new
on the job, you want to make a good impression. The first week of employment goes well. Your
supervisor even commends you for being a “quick study.” During your second week, something
seems to change. Your new medication seems to be slowing you down and you can’t seem to keep
all your responsibilities in focus. For the first time, you oversleep and are late to work. You call your
supervisor but she seems somewhat displeased. You try very hard but things don’t seem to be going
very well at the moment.
How might you address this situation?
Is this person doing his/her best?
If so, is his/her best good enough?
Is there a way to rectify the situation?
Could there be a “win/win” situation?