NLP Presuppositions

Submitted by Craig on Sun, 04/23/2017 - 23:54

NLP Presuppositions are powerful assumptions that we hold in mind when working with ourselves and others. Acting as if they were true shaves time and resistence off the change process.

Let's take these one at a time:

The map is not the territory

Otherwise stated, the menu is not the meal. This popular presupposition is based on the observation that what we think is real, is really a distorted, deleted and generalized representation of reality, which though similar to the experience of others in many ways, is as unique as we are. The map referred to here is actually our experience as recorded on the substrate of our neurology, and so is no more real than the bytes of a digital photograph taken of the Golden Gate Bridge as stored on the substrate of a hard drive.

This presupposition is a great place to start any discussion about NLP, and is quite surprising to a lot of folks who have come to believe that the way they see things is how things really are, and there can be no other way.

People respond to their experience, not to reality itself

On the heels of the previous presupposition, this one explains why two people can read the same passage of scripture, and take away a completely different meaning, why one person can handle snakes comfortably and another sweat by watching them on TV, and why eye witnesses are fallible in court.

We perceive the world through filters of values and beliefs, and our attention to reality is also influenced by other things going on in our awareness at the time. Further, during any given day, we have periods better suited to paying attention than others.

Having a choice is better than not having a choice

This presupposition is so obvious it makes one wonder... why point it out? It is to remind the practitioner of NLP that interventions should strive to increase choice. One option is the same as no choice. Two options are the same as one choice... one or the other. Three options is typically where real freedom begins, and three choices seems to be a good number to strive for in most interventions.

That said, marketers are aware that too many choices may actually tend to drive sales down, as overwhelm sets in.

People make the best choice they can at the time

It is said that regret is enlightenment come too late. We all remember times we did something suboptimal, embarrassing or even stupid, but could not have chosen differently, because at the time what we chose "felt right", or "seemed logical" at the time.

The bad news is that you and I will do this again and again in our lives, because we operate in a world of uncertainty and with incomplete information. We tend not to decide things rationally, but based on patterns we recognize from past experiences. Then we go to work to rationalize our actions after the decision is already made.

The good news is that knowing we are wired to operate this way, we can take ourselves a little more lightly, and then take care to make course corrections quickly once we've taken a mistep.

People work perfectly

This presupposition aims to inform the NLP practitioner that people are perfect, though the way we think people should work is subject to frequent and often drastic revisions.

Every behavior has a positive intention

Some of the better NLP practitioners make this a core part of their inquiries into presenting problems of their clients. In other words, when there is a personal or interpersonal conflict, asking what is the positive intention of this part of yourself, or of the disagreeing parties often leads to the discovery of common ground.

The unconscious mind balances the conscious mind; it is not malicious

This presupposition is wholistic in its aim. Remember that the conscious mind is only capable of holding 5 - 7 bits of information at once, thinks linearly, and suffers from attention deficits during large portions of the day. The unconscious mind is capable of managing all the other details of staying alive, navigating the terrain, regulating and communicating with the body, thinks in patterns and symbols, and is active all the time.

Both the conscious and unconscious aspects are part of the same mind, and support and accelerate personal breakthroughs when aligned.

The meaning of communication is the response you get

This presupposition empowers the NLP practitioner to consider all communication as a two-way street. If you say X, your client hears Y, and understands Z, you are then empowered to clarify your meaning and try to say it a different way.

We already have all the resources we need or we can create them

In our experience, we have access to memories of times we did or said something right, or memories of times when others did or said something right, or we might have even read or seen fictional characters doing or saying something right. If we can't tap into these memories, then at least we can tap into our imaginative capabilities to create patterns of doing or saying something right.

The role of the NLP practitioner is to act as the tour guide while the client accesses these resources within themselves.

Mind and body form a system. They are different expressions of the one person

In NLP, we strive for wholeness, and in treating the person, we pay attention to what is going on in the mind, as well as physiologically. We know that the mind influences the body, and the body influences the mind constantly. Indeed they are inseparable, and the seasoned NLP practitioner knows this.

Even in everyday communication, it is said that 55% of all meaning is conveyed through body language

We process all information through our senses

Unlike a computer, which stores, indexes and retrieves information digitally, our minds store information in chunks we call submodalities in NLP. Sensations enter the mind through the senses as images, sounds, words, feelings, smells and tastes, and then our mind goes to work to link these to emotions and meaning.

Modeling successful performance leads to excellence

Many animals, including primates and especially humans (except severely autistic individuals) are endowed with a great deal of mirror neurons in the brain, whose main function is to allow an observer to mirror the behavior of another in real time. This mirroring is felt in the body. This is why it is possible for athletes such as Michael Jordan and Diego Maradona to elevate their respective sports through their performances, because the other athletes "get it" when they see it.

In NLP, we believe that excellence in any human endeavor can be analyzed in terms of neurological experience, and then taught successfully to others.

If you want to understand, act

NLP is not so much theoretical as practical. It is easier for an NLP practitioner to induce trance in others, if they can go willfully into trance themselves. Likewise, we master NLP language patterns through practice in real situations, rather than reading about them through books. If you want to understand any part of NLP, grab a partner and practice!

There is no failure, only feedback

In NLP, failure is defined as giving up. The takeaway here is that if something is not working, try something else until you or your clients move in the direction of the desired outcome.

All procedures should increase wholeness

In NLP, there are certain specific instances where compartmentalized behaviors or "parts" can be intentionally installed, but this increases the risk of conflicts down the road. Wholeness is generally preferred. When we are whole, we are able to act consistently across many contexts, without jeopardizing our identities, beliefs or values.

There are no learning disabilities, only inflexible communicators.

Only a very inflexible communicator would address a child the same way as the president of a foreign country. This is an extreme example, but it illustrates that everyone responds best when they are being addressed in their own language, and at their own neurological level. The masterful NLP practitioner will have many models to view the world from, and will easily transition from one model to another, in order to gain rapport with their clients.