The 16 NLP Presuppositions Explained [List] [Examples]
What are the 16 NLP presuppositions? NLP has a number of assumptions, or starting points. You can best see them as a number of basic principles that you automatically apply and respect when working with NLP. What are these NLP presuppositions? You will find these ‘rules for life’ and their benefits in this article.
1. Any behavior was the best choice anyone had at the time
With the wisdom of today, you would often want to have done something differently in the past. But that makes sense, because you got that wisdom precisely by doing it and making ‘mistakes’.
Another way to state this NLP principle is: everyone does their best with the tools he or she has available at that time. This also has to do with the following assumption about the positive intention …
2. Behind every behavior there is a positive intention
The positive intention is one of the most important components of problematic behavior .
Let’s start right away with an example: someone can smoke because he / she has the positive intention to have a social moment with a friend who also smokes at the same time. This advantage of the problematic behavior is also referred to as ‘secondary gain’ or ‘gaining from disease‘.
Another example: cursing seems incomprehensible on the surface. The positive intention of this behavior could be to feel a connection or be heard. The positive intention is often (always) to fulfill a fundamental need.
Instead of accusing someone, ask, ‘What does someone want to achieve with this behavior? What value (s) does this person fulfill with this? ‘
What can you do with this knowledge? NLP uses this to find a new application for the positive intention. Thus, this person could come up with new options that could fulfill the intention of being ‘social’, not having to smoke.
Sometimes someone doesn’t want to get rid of the drama. He is then a bit devoted to it. Let this person know that similar benefits can be obtained with different behaviors. Or better: communicate this with the subconscious.
This is one of the most important reframing. For example, we use this principle in the technique ‘ Six Step Reframe (N Step Reframe) ‘ to resolve internal conflicts through the subconscious mind. A context reframing is also relevant: Every behavior and every feeling is meaningful if you find a suitable context for it.
Every behavior and every feeling makes sense if you find a suitable context for it. At NLP we never throw away behavior. We respect it and find another function for it. For every behavior there is a context in which it makes sense.
We therefore avoid the label ‘bad’. For example, if you act stubborn and arrogant, that doesn’t make you a less good person. You are only less effective in achieving your desired results in certain situations. We therefore speak of a desired situation or undesirable situation with regard to a context / goal.
In addition, we look at the intention by ‘upchunking’ in the logical levels . We also process the positive intention in giving feedback. Finally, you can apply this not only to internal conflicts, but also to external conflicts (mediation and negotiation). So working with intentions is something that an NLP person does a lot.
You often have a feeling of unrest … How wonderful! What is the intention of this?
You must have done your best! I want you to continue with that feeling of anxiety (This is a shocking phrase so far. So pause and calibrate for trance signals) … until we find other ways for your positive intention.
It is your job (the client’s job) to test different (NLP) interventions to reframe the positive intention.
3. Failure doesn’t exist – Only feedback exists
Life teaches us important lessons through our mistakes. If you make a mistake, ask yourself what you could learn from it. Accept these lessons with humility and gratitude. That way you grow much more.
Anything you want to do well is worth doing bad first.
This principle also presupposes that it is good to get out of your comfort zone so that you learn new things . In fact, as soon as something becomes too comfortable because you can already do it, you should actually ‘forbid’ yourself from doing that. Then it’s time to challenge yourself and make it more difficult, so that you make mistakes again and develop yourself.
If you can do it at all, you should n’t do it. If you can’t do it yet, you should do it. Otherwise you will learn nothing.
– John Grinder
This premise, “Failure does not exist, only feedback exists,” is also related to the following principle (The meaning of your communication is the evoked response). If you don’t achieve what you want, you need to change something in your approach.
4. The meaning of the message is the response that follows
In other words: the meaning of your communication is the response you receive. You therefore measure whether you have communicated properly, by checking whether the message has got through to the other party, and you are responsible for a correct transfer.
If your communication has not achieved what you wanted with it, you have to change something about your communication.
If the other party has misunderstood, while you have explained it so perfectly according to yourself, then you still do not place the blame on the other, but on the communication method you chose.
Do you want right or luck? Are you the sender of a misunderstood message? Then always think, “It’s my fault.” Instead of, ‘Hey, it’s not me! You are stupid for not getting it! “
Also, if the other person feels hurt or attacked when you had all the right intentions, it is a sign that you should take back your words to change tack or even agree with the other.
If I wish you understood, I would have explained it better.
– Johan Cruijff
So test something different in your communication next time, instead of putting in your old point of view again. For example, that old position remains alive in you because of your ego identification with it. You hurt the other person again, despite the good intention you still have. See the following principle on how to take a new approach.
Anyone who is wise knows: you cannot change others. Well yourself.
In fact, a good leader always takes responsibility. It doesn’t matter who made the mistake – a good leader always takes it on his own and always says, “It’s my mistake.” Then a solution is sought. This is a proactive – not a reactive trait.
So not: ‘It depends on my staff, customers, client, government, tax authorities, partner, children, colleagues, boss, mother-in-law, my origin, the neighborhood, my grandfather, the culture, the whole world …’
5. If what you’re doing doesn’t work, test something else
This is the TOTE (Test Operate Test Exit) philosophy . You always test (for example by asking if something has worked), and if it does not have the desired result, you test something else. This implies an attitude of curiosity, flexibility and a willingness to experiment!
If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get the results you’ve always had.
– Tony Robbins
So test something new. And by the way, even test something new if something works! Grinder took his best student months to come up with a way to best explain the NLP communication model . After hard work, when he finally figured out the most effective way, Grinder said, now think of four other ways to explain the NLP communication model.
Your successes become a burden that you carry on your shoulders. For example, UNLP never gives the same training twice. A new structure is always devised.
The definition of insanity is ‘keep testing the same thing and still expect a different outcome …’
This principle is used in hypnosis , for example : if you calibrate that the client responds very well to certain hypnotic suggestions, and less strongly to other suggestions, then you use the suggestions that worked very well extra often!
In addition, the TOTE attitude ensures that you do not just blindly assume. You put your prejudices aside and you test before reaching a conclusion. Think of ANNA: Inquire Everything, Accept Nothing.
Is someone at the station coming to you with a question, while this person looks unkempt and is not fluent in Dutch and English? Perhaps your first reaction is to dismiss this person right away because you assume they are criminal, but you may notice, I didn’t even check. And do you still make a rapprochement. Maybe it turns out to be someone with a pure heart … who just doesn’t know how to dress.
6. The one with the most flexibility wins: live with options!
People with great flexibility have the most possibilities to get the result they want. They are open to the unexpected wonders of life, adapt when changes call for it, accept things they cannot change, find creative solutions, and are constantly growing.
This has to do with the previous assumption of NLP (If what you do doesn’t work, test something else). In other words, flexible people love options and choices.
If you only have one choice, then you are a robot. If you have two choices, you have a dilemma. If you have three or more ways to accomplish something, you have options. Then you will also achieve it. And when those three options disappear, we just create new ways.
The people who get the furthest in life are people who have options, and know they always have options , such as how to respond. Always maintain freedom of options, such as having a choice in how you feel. That is flexibility. Proactive people live with options.
I bend, but I don’t break.
– Jean de la Fontaine
The history of free people was never written by accident, but by choice – their choice!
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
Pass on this way of life to your clients, students and children. For example, always give your child three of everything. This is how the subconscious learns: I have a choice. When you’ve gone shopping, put three types of fruit on the table. When buying pacifiers for your child, buy three and let the child know they always have choices.
Feeling insecure is a choice. Having a busy schedule is a choice. Being negative is a choice. Feeling fear is a choice. Taking no action is a choice. Working on your self-confidence is a choice. Choosing a new life story is a choice.
Let’s take this a step further. Now it gets really interesting …
Flexibility is an essential quality because it is so closely related to your ability to step out of your ego roles, ego masks, and ego personalities (the image of yourself).
Detachment from your ego is a powerful use of flexibility. With every exhalation, let go of who you think you are, and become who you really are with every inhalation.
Because of this you can always assume a different, meaningful role without worrying about what others think of you and without thinking that you are the one person you were yesterday too today. It suddenly gives you freedom to do what you want, to be who you want to be and to achieve what you want to achieve.
Even though I am not to blame, I am willing to take the blame – in order to achieve the more important goal.
Below the article about the logical levels elaborates on the roles we have in life are – and not his . Those roles and other material things are temporary and changeable. So we must detach ourselves from it so that we are free. Flexibility in its purest form! The 1999 film Fight Club is full of wisdom to underline this.
“It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. Nothing is static, everything is evolving, everything is falling apart.”
“You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.”
“I see in the fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars, advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of the history man, no purpose or place, we have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives, we’ve been all raised by television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won’t and we’re slowly learning that fact. and we’re very very pissed off.”
“Reject the basic assumptions of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions.”
“May I never be complete. May I never be content. May I never be perfect.”
“I don’t want to die without any scars.”
– Quotes from Fight Club
7. The past does not equal the future (no one is broken)
The past is not the same as the future. This principle also ties in nicely with the previous principle, because it is a flexible act to leave yesterday as it was and to believe, do or be something new today.
We are always new.
Something that had a certain use in the past is often no longer useful in new situations. Yet it sometimes happens that people ‘generalize’ behavior or beliefs from the past to the future. It’s not necessary. In every new situation you have the option to do something different than what you did in the past. See your client as already healed.
Healing comes from the word whole. Healing is not fixing.
If an error has been made, you can correct the error . If you do that, your ‘program’ will run fine again. It has nothing to do with people who are good, bad or broken his . It is purely about changing a small instruction .
Does the past seem to hold you back? That’s your old life story. You can just choose a new life story: what are my new thoughts, beliefs, identity, mission, etc.?
We may not have paid attention once and we did not get off the train when we arrived at our station. However, that is resolved in no time. Then we have to take a train back and then get out. It’s easy to correct that. To change.
Life is like a game of goose: you can start over and over unless you get stuck.
– Tile wisdom
As soon as I let go of who I am, I become what I can be.
– Lao Tzu
Forgetting yourself is what makes you really happy.
– Robert Louis Stevenson
Die for the old … that had once served a purpose. New things can grow … No one is broken. Now you are finally no longer concerned with yourself and you can actually mean something for someone else.
Do you know what is the best of the past? It’s over. And the best of the future? You can do whatever you want. Things you haven’t even dreamed about yet because you were too busy replaying the past over and over again.
– Richard Bandler
Some people think they feel good when certain things do or don’t happen. But the trick is: feeling good
for no reason.
– Richard Bandler
An example of this is that some people sometimes say they have limiting beliefs. However, that is incorrect if you live by this NLP principle. It’s not at all that you “sabotage yourself with limiting beliefs.” Never go there with your thoughts. You just have to install the beliefs you want.
It will be all right … Correction: it is good!
How do you know you’re holding on to the past? If you are unhappy, ask yourself, what am I holding onto from the past?
- There are people who always let themselves be walked over so that they do not want to be rejected because they were rejected once in their youth, for example in a racism incident surrounding their origin.
- There are women who fear dating again, not because they can’t find anyone, but because their previous relationship was so painful.
- There are people who never dare to make a romantic move because they were once painfully rejected when they wanted to make a move in their youth.
- There are men who do not want to marry their partner, not because there is no love, but because their parents are divorced and they fear the same fate.
- There are people who are afraid of starting something new, not because they have no talent but because of previous failures.
- There are those who are afraid of being happy now because it brought tears last time.
- There are people who don’t follow their dream because of old self-doubt, self-criticism, beliefs and fears.
These people continuously focus in all future situations on avoiding that rejection, pain, abandonment, failure, tears, criticism … What is that for you? What are you constantly avoiding – so what limiting things are you focusing on – that are holding you back?
All pain is old pain. All fear is old fear.
If it’s so easy to just do something new now, why do people stick to their old story? This may, for example , have to do with positive intentions , such as fulfilling safety. It’s safe to keep it as it is and not to be vulnerable to your new story.
You are not the same person you were yesterday. Everything is always changing. You are free. You can do whatever you want.
Some NLP techniques go into someone’s past, but it never ends there. Just looking at the past ensures that you find reasons to stay like the old and that you are fine. NLP techniques change the past and then create a new future. A selection from the number of (NLP) techniques about processing and releasing emotions from the past can be found here.
A person can change.
8. The map is not the territory & Perception is projection
This is perhaps the most beautiful principle with which more respect, peace and flexibility can arise.
There is a difference between the world itself and how we experience the world. The way we model the world is only a reference to reality. It is not reality itself. A well-known analogy to this is ” The map is not the area.”
How we ‘represent’ (see) the world is only our own interpretation. It is our image of reality, and we act and think according to that. The words we use are not the same as the event or object they represent. The tragedy is that if everyone followed this simple principle, there would have been no (religious) violence .
Our language is also just a way of referring to reality. It’s not the same as what it points to. It’s dual.
People used to be killed for it: putting the truth into words. If you believe that only your own model of the world is the truth, you are using it through the ego. You are the truth. Don’t look outside of you. Connect to it. Then all your actions and relationships will reflect oneness with all the life you experience deep inside. That is love.
What you say is true. And the joke is: what he says is also true. It is not a simple truth, but a multiple truth.
– Peter Dalmeijer
However, an important distinction can be made: this principle becomes less fruitful when we are talking about concrete, directly observable sensory matters. For example, if you want to cross a street and see a car, then the car is indeed a product of your own neurological organization (the map) and therefore different from reality (the area), so that it can be said that the approaching car is not really exists. Yet it is smart not to cross yet. This principle becomes more fruitful when we talk about more abstract perceptions of reality, such as “The world is a bad place” or “All Greeks are lazy.”
What can you do with this information? Then you can extend this idea: our model of the world has more influence on the actual world than you think. If you understand this, you are on the cause side ( proactive ). Read the article: The world is your mirror. Perception is projection.
We must be the change ourselves if we want to see change in others.
Moreover, this allows you to live an even more peaceful life than the saying ‘Change the world, start with yourself’. NLP developer John Grinder actually says: “If you want to change the other, change yourself.” Point. Don’t hope that the world will change with it afterwards.
Many people want to change the world, but few are willing to change their own thinking.
The philosophy of Byron Katie also boils down to this. That’s all you do: change yourself. You don’t have to change others. If you look deeper, is the other you …
People respond to their map of reality, not to reality itself.
9. Respect the model (map / representation) of the world of the other
Your conception is your reality. That goes for everybody. Park your prejudices and immerse yourself in the world model of the other. Your world model is never the truth: it is always different from reality. You can read all about this in the NLP communication model.
“I have the world model. Mine is right, and you have to agree.”
“My view is my reality. That applies to everyone. I park my prejudices and I immerse myself in the world model of the other. My world model is never the truth: it is always different from reality because it filters reality.”
Recently someone asked me: “NLP should be taught in all primary schools! Then the children can learn everything about such important things as respect and self-confidence! Why is that not being done?” “Because we see it that way. This is how we see it. Other people see it very differently.”
There are people who – often from an early age – have been given the conviction that historical figures such as Abraham, Christ, Mohammed, Buddha and / or Krishna were sent by God. When they are talking to another person, and when they hear that the other person believes these figures were ordinary people and no one was sent by God, they automatically think, ‘Hmm … how am I going to convince him that he is a total wrong world view? Which arguments will I use? Hmm … sooner or later I will get to him, if necessary by first ‘following’ him so that I can then lead him into my truth. Then he will realize that he is wrong and that the world really works as I have learned / received it. ‘
How nice would it be if we stop this mental terrorism? How nice would it be if we just immediately accept the worldview of other people and possibly even examine it out of interest in order to genuinely learn from it? Not to tell our own ‘truth’ later, but simply because we really accept their truth. Instant and automatic.
In the Netflix documentary ‘The Story of God’ we see how Morgan Freeman makes friends with scientists and religious people around the world in seconds with complete respect. He knows how to immediately build a strong connection (rapport) with everyone because he sincerely examines and accepts the truth of the other, without Morgan Freeman wanting to convey his own vision and beliefs to the other.
Your own view of the world was created purely because you were born on a certain street, had certain parents and watched certain TV programs. If you had already lived one street away, you would have had completely different opinions, values and information about the world. This is called conditioning, which is an ego construction.
Give credit, take blame.
NLP is changing other people’s art by changing yourself .
– Tom Best, NLP developer
10. You can not not communicate / manipulate
People have two levels of communication: a conscious and an unconscious level. Even if you don’t say anything, your body will tell you something. Now a new question arises: in which direction are you going to manipulate? For a better world or for a worse world? The joke is that the latter option will sooner or later turn out badly for everyone.
“Try not to be late this time.” That’s very clever use of the milton model in the wrong direction.
You can not manipulate. When you live, speak and breathe, you are already automatically manipulating. So the question is: how are you going to use it? To give others and yourself more choices and options or are you going to use it for your ego?
11. Everyone already has all the tools they need to achieve the desired results (If someone else can do it, I can too!)
The subconscious mind is so intelligent and has all the information in it. For example, you had already shown the skills in a different context, and you had not yet thought about using it in another context.
Modeling successful actions leads to excellence.
This presupposition is diametrically opposed to the ‘Dutch’ statement: ‘You have it or you don’t have it.’ If you adhere to this statement, it will lead to resigning yourself to the current situation. Adopting the NLP premise leads to a healthy attitude of experimentation and interest in the behavior and capabilities of another.
NLP is an attitude based on curiosity
– Richard Bandler
This principle also says: ability is a matter of structure. If you know the structure, you could take over a capital. Every human capacity is transferable, since we are all human and therefore have broadly the same ‘hardware’. With the necessary willingness, effort and dedication, you can structure your own subjective experience as much as the model you want to emulate.
12. Healing cannot be done in a logical way: work with moods and the subconscious mind
NLP works through the subconscious and through states of mind. We are not going to logically / consciously reason that we have to heal, but we are actually going to install it.
Healing, behavioral change and transformation cannot be done on a conscious level. Work with the subconscious . NLP makes this very simple by means of techniques that are explained step by step.
You cannot change your subconscious with conscious logic. It is only possible with symbols, metaphors, stories and dreams.
Working with moods is also an important component, which has little to do with conscious thinking. Another way in which this principle is stated is: There are no incapacitated people, only incapable states (states of mind / moods).
With the right mood (and action) you can go a long way. Haven’t had a breakthrough yet? The reason is always that you are still in your head.
13. Resistance in a conversation partner is a sign of lack of rapport and flexibility
“Resistance” is a sign of lack of rapport .
With rapport anything is possible, without rapport nothing is possible.
There are no clients with resistance, there are only inflexible communicators. Effective communicators accept and use any communication presented to them. This is called utilization, which is perfect when dealing with ‘resistance’.
Again, you cannot change others. You can only maximize your own flexibility.
In addition, the following principle about context and ecology says a lot about resistance …
14. Behavior and change should be evaluated in their context and ecology
If we want to change behavior, we always check the ecology. Resistance in a client is a sign of a lack of ecology. Does what you do, or have it done, match the standards and values of the coachee? Is that what he or she wants? The first and most powerful step to change (read: new options) is to want it. Ecology also means: is this okay for other areas and other people in my life?
In addition, by using the feedback model , we can ensure that we do not confuse someone’s behavior with someone’s skills or identity.
Someone’s behavior is not who the person is: accept the person, not necessarily the behavior. In fact, create options for new behavior.
15. The body is the mind
This can mean that if you have a fit body, you automatically have a fit mind. The same is true of moods. If you adopt the characteristic attitude of a certain state of mind, you will automatically start to feel appropriate. The modeling technique comes from this: put for example the physiology of a role model on yourself, then take to a certain extent also the mindset and skills that model over.
This principle can also mean that the body provides the answers immediately. For example, the body can indicate someone ‘s timeline by leaning, turning or gesturing (with a certain hand) in a certain direction. So calibrate on behavior / body. That provides the most valuable information.
When you are talking to someone, know that the words are only a small part of the communication. More important is the feeling: read between the lines, focus on unconscious signals in someone’s voice and body language. This is also the following principle: work with structure, not with content.
16. Work with structure, not with content (experience has structure)
The content is as it is. You can’t change what happened to it. You can, however, influence how you deal with it: the structure of your experience. NLP takes place at that level.
- What is said.
- What happened.
- What is seen, heard or felt (in a representation).
Structure / process is:
- How it is said.
- How it is experienced.
- The submodalities of a representation.
Experience has a structure! If you work with structure and pay attention to structure, you can make new discoveries.
For many people, the best thing about NLP is discovering another person’s experience. And without projecting your own things on it, but by asking, observing and recognizing patterns. Put on your curious cap and learn about another person.
Exercise: View a problem or limiting thought from the NLP assumptions
Place the NLP assumptions on the floor as cards, and always use your theme on each card. In this way, you always view your theme from within the framework of one of the NLP principles. Notice and share all the new perspectives ( reframes ) that result from this. If you are short on time, you can use your 3 favorite presuppositions.
Have a discussion – or in a more positive word: a dialogue – about a particular starting point of NLP. Two people defend the premise and two people attack it. Pay attention to (the lack of) specific information: ask for examples and keep asking. In any case, do this at least once with someone who is not doing NLP training.
Exercise: what is your positive intention?
Choose a behavior of your own that you are not satisfied with. Consider for yourself what the positive intention of that behavior could be.
Exercise: what is the other person’s positive intention?
- Consider behavior from another person that you have difficulty with.
- Determine what the other person’s positive intention could be.
- Determine how you could respond to that positive intention so that your communication with this person improves.
- Determine whether or not you want to carry out your intended action.
Exercise: coaching someone towards their positive intention
Have a conversation with someone (who doesn’t do NLP). You discuss behavior of the other that he is not satisfied with and that he wants to change while it is not yet working. Tracks with him what the positive intention of that behavior might be. It is important that the other person finds the answer himself: you have a coaching role.
What is your vision on these principles of NLP? Did you think these were strange principles, or did you think, “Oh my God, they get it!” Let us know in the comments below.