Presuppositions of Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Presuppositions of Neuro-Linguistic Programming

The articles on this site presuppose certain things.  That is they are written with the implied understanding of some basic rules about human interaction.   Human communication is full of presuppositions.   These are defined by our culture, language, groups we affiliate with and even our family.   We learn and accept most of the presuppositions in our life by growing up in our environments, or when we formally join a group.  For the most part, the presuppositions we adopt are not explicitly defined and may actually be unspoken.

We can learn a lot about our beliefs and habits by noticing our behavior and then pondering:  What must be true in order for me to have done that?  The list can be long and surprising.

While writing last week’s article I realized that it would be useful to define the presuppositions from Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) – especially since they support the information in the other articles.  It is my intention that you find this information useful and thought provoking.  And that it may help you improve your communication with yourself and others.

Presupposition.  To suppose or assume beforehand; take for granted in advance. (

The presuppositions from NLP are a helpful way to approach human communication.  Please note that these are not necessarily “true”, but they can be convenient when discussing or evaluating how people interact.

The list below provides a summary description for each of the main presuppositions from NLP.

Behind Every Behavior Is a Positive Intention
We only do things that we hope and expect will work out well for us. Even if we make a sacrifice, we hope to feel good in some way for helping another. Knowing that every behavior has a positive intention, all we need to do is look for the positive intention in action. Upon finding it, we can understand the person we are with and communicate better with them. Perhaps we can help make the world a better place?  (More about this topic.)

The Meaning of Your Communication is the Response You Actually Get
Communication isn’t so much about what we thought we said as what others understood us to say. If the response you are getting is not what you wanted or expected, adjust your delivery and try again.

There is No Such Thing as Failure, Only Feedback
When we take action, we get a result. The result we get helps us determine our next action. Each action provides a learning opportunity. If we never make any mistakes, we must not be doing anything new.

The Map is NOT the Territory
We each make very detailed and intricate maps of our world, and yet everyone’s is different. Ask two people who saw an event what they saw and notice how their reports have similarities and differences. Our ideas of reality are no closer to reality than a paper map is to the actual world. Of course we can, and do, use our internal map of reality as a guide to get where we want to be in the world.  Being curious about another person’s map of reality  can be one of the fastest ways of getting to know and understand them.

Communication is Redundant
We are all communicating on multiple levels with every communication. Take speaking for example: We have words, tonality, facial expressions, body motions, inflection, and speed. With written communication, we have words, grammar, mode of writing (print, cursive, typed, computer, etc.). Even with sign language there are the body motions beyond the pure signs. We are always communicating in each of the three major communication modalities: Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic.

May you find value in these presuppositions, and may they help you improve your human relations skills.

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