The Building Blocks of NLP: The Presuppositions

The presuppositions of NLP are 14 fundamental common sense principles that, along with the Principles for Success, form the basis and foundation of NLP.   They’re called “pre-suppositions” as you pre-suppose them to be true – adopting them and acting as if they are true when working with NLP.  In plain English you might call them assumptions.  They filter our perceptions and external reality, but need not necessarily actually be true.  They serve as principles to live and work by, they result in changes to our behavior and therefore change and improve our results, maximising the chances of us reaching our BIG, wonderful, amazing goals in life. 

Depending on the vein of NLP you come across – be it Tad James’ more philosophical variety (as I’ll outline below), Robert Dilts more analytical version or those from Bandler and Grinder themselves – the exact number of presuppositions and wording varies.  But in essence the message from each version is the same.

1. RESPECT for the other person’s model of the world:  find out about it, understand it, respect it, be objective about it, and utilise it to help you communicate with that person as effectively as possible. You don’t have to buy in to it or agree with it. 

2. Behaviour and change are to be evaluated in terms of context and ECOLOGY: ecology is the big picture – whenever we make a change in ourselves we need to consider how it fits in our lives in general, how it affects our family and friends around us, society and even the world in some cases.    

3. Resistance in a client is a sign of a lack of RAPPORT:  rapport is critical to create an unconscious connection between two people as I covered in J’Adore Rapport.  If rapport is lacking then your communication with that person will not be optimal.

4. PEOPLE are not their behaviours:  separate the intention or purpose behind an action from the action itself.  So accept the person and change the behaviour. 

5. Everyone is doing the BEST they can with the resources they have available: this is one of my favourites and implies forgiveness.  Remembering that everyone is doing the best they can will remind you that every behaviour is motivated by positive intent – even if that positive intent isn’t so positive for you personally.

6. CALIBRATE on behaviour: the most important information about a person is that person’s behaviour.  Quite simply what a person DOES (their behaviour) is far more important than what they SAY (their words).

7. The map is not the TERRITORY: we all experience events in different ways and from that we each create our own internal map of the world from which we operate.  It’s important to remember that a map can never be 100% accurate, and of course everyone’s map will be different, as everyone’s experience is different. 

8. YOU are in charge of your mind; and therefore your results: and I am also in charge of my mind and therefore my results.  Need I say more?

9. People have all the RESOURCES they need to succeed and to achieve their desired outcomes:  when you think of something you want, it’s impossible for you to even contemplate it, unless you already have enough resources to achieve it.  Realise you have them and remove any blockages to use them to succeed. 

10.  All procedures should increase WHOLENESS:  any internal conflict wastes precious energy, which can be utilised instead in achieving your goals.  NLP procedures should increase wholeness of the individual.  

11. There is only FEEDBACK!:  there is no failure, only feedback.  Feedback is an incredibly powerful tool to help you change your behaviour and achieve the results you want. 

12.  The meaning of communication is the RESPONSE you get:  whatever you think you think you communicated if you get a different response than you intended then of course it’s that response that’s important.  Both parties involved have 100% responsibility for communication. 

13. The Law of Requisite VARIETY: put simply the person with the most flexibility of behaviour will control the situation.  The flexible our behaviour the more chance you have of achieving your goals.  If there is a behaviour you can’t or won’t do then it will limit the results you can achieve.

14.  All procedures should be designed to increase CHOICE:  the more choices you have, the freer you are, the more flexible your behaviour, the more influence you have. 

Contemplate, cogitate, muse on them, stick them on the wall, test them out….

© Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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