Behind every behaviour is a positive intention…
That’s one of the key presuppositions of NLP – but what does it really mean?
The presuppositions of NLP are like ‘Convenient Beliefs’ – beliefs that if you take them on board, they can help you perceive things in new and more empowering ways.
They really are the foundation for a lot of the techniques we do in NLP.
But how can there really be a positive intention behind every behaviour?
Well, a lot of people read this presupposition and misinterpret it. People often say things like ‘how could you possibly say there is a positive intention behind the behaviour of a serious criminal? …. I mean how can stealing from someone possibly be a positive intention?’
And the real answer is that what the presupposition refers to is that there is a positive intention behind every behaviour for the individual that does it.
Let’s take for example someone who has a nagging internal dialogue – you know, that voice that says things like ‘you shouldn’t have done that….don’t try that….etc’.
Do you ever have something like that?
I had a client who had a voice like that that kept saying he wasn’t good enough to do presentations and that people would only dislike him for it.
He really gave himself a hard time about that inner dialogue – he even labeled it as his ‘inner demon’.
By being mean to his inner dialogue and just trying to ignore it, the problem was getting worse!
I asked him what the positive intention behind the inner dialogue might be. At first he didn’t believe it had a positive intention, but after considering it a while he asked himself again and realized that at a deep level this inner voice was trying to protect him – by stopping him from doing activities where he might find himself at risk of being hurt – because in the past he had had a bad experience where he had felt humiliated at school when he did a presentation and people had laughed at him, so this voice was trying to save him from being hurt.
I asked him to listen to and acknowledge the positive intention behind the internal dialogue and rather than ignore it take note of the positive intention and agree to find some other way to care for the positive intention.
When he started listening to his internal dialogue and show appreciate for its concerns instead of trying to ignore it, he found that it began to grow quiet.
Every behaviour we engage in has a positive intention behind it, even if that intention doesn’t seem to serve us any more. Even something like a phobia, which may have the intention of something like protection from something.
When we start to find the positive intention behind our actions we can stop giving ourselves a hard time and find new more positive ways to fulfil that positive intention that serve us far better in the future. NLP Training is all about finding those positive intentions and finding new ways to get results.