NLPDevon

change works . . .

Exploring The Presuppositions of NLP

As you read through my suggestions of what each presupposition means you may come up with alternative interpretations. That's great and I would love to hear them so please feel free to email me with your ideas.

You may also enjoy considering how the presuppositions might apply to a situation in your own life or work.


Actions have purpose.

Similarly we do not act randomly; everything we do is trying to achieve something, although we may not be aware of what that is.

People are not broken.

If a person's strategies are not working it is the strategy, not the person, that needs changing.

The map is not the territory.

Each of us has a sort of map of reality created through our experiences, memories and beliefs. Our behaviours are responses to the map rather than to reality. With NLP we can change the map in order to create more choice.

There is no failure only feedback.

I think this is probably the most contentious of the presuppositions. As I continue to research and learn about NLP I am developing an understanding of it and currently read it as saying that if we label something as 'failed' we are imposing a Kind of premature closure. If we give ourselves the opportunity to learn from a mistake and try something different we may well succeed.

Modelling offers the possibility of excellence.

This is probably the most fundamental of the presuppositions since NLP, is in essence, all about modelling. If one person can do something exquisitely it is possible for someone else to learn to do so.

You cannot not communicate.

Even sitting totally still and quiet will communicate something. Your posture, the clothes you wear, the expression on your face, your breathing and much more will all be communicating.

Be at cause rather than at effect.

Once we understand that we are in charge of our own minds we can recognise whether we are behaving as if we have a choice or not. At cause you will feel in charge of your own actions whereas remaining at effect is to adopt the position of victim. Which would you prefer?

More presuppositions

Each school of NLP, if not every NLP practitioner will have their own list of presuppositions and interpretations. It can be an interesting undertaking to compare and contrast them.


People make the best choice they can at any time.

It can be clear from the outside that there are better choices that a person could make. It may appear that someone is making strange choices but to them, in their current state, their choices will seem to be the best way forward. NLP offers more choices and ways of changing our state so that we can take advantage of choices available.

The system with the most flexibility is the most likely to succeed.

If what you are doing isn't working, try something else. Having a choice is better than not having a choice and the more choices we have the more free we feel to take control of our own lives.

Mind and body form a single system.

In the last 10 – 20 years evidence has shown that the immune system, for example, is integrally linked to brain activity so that mental stress can inhibit the performance of the immune system and thus have a negative effect on our physical health.

We have access to all the resources we need.

Although you may believe that you can't do something that you want to be able to do, there will have been a time before you adopted that belief. For instance if what you want is confidence, there will have been a time, when you were younger, that this was not true. NLP makes it possible to access the confidence that was possible then and keep it for the future.

Alternatively you may know someone who has the resource you need. Who do you know who has the confidence you want? By modelling them you can feel as confident as they appear.

The meaning of your communication is indicated by the responses you get.

Sometimes when we say something the response we get is not what we expect or not what we are hoping for. In this situation if we keep saying the same type of thing we will continue to be disappointed by the response we get. Arguments and disagreements can be perpetuated in this way. It is only when we take responsibility for our communication, and change what we are saying, that we get a different response.

Behaviours have positive intent.

People always have a good reason for doing what they do. Sometime this reason is difficult to see or understand at first. It is often related to protection. For instance my client's fear of spiders may have been formed because as a very young child she saw that her mother was afraid of them. In order to keep herself safe she developed arachnophobia. NLP separates the purpose behind behaviour from the behaviour itself clarifying that a person is not their behaviour. When a person has a better choice of behaviour that still achieves their positive intention, they will take it.