Many people think of NLP as a series of cool and powerful techniques for personal transformation. However, it’s much more than that. Behind all these powerful techniques is a number of presuppositions of NLP. Just knowing these can help you make a profound and dramatic change in your overall attitude to yourself, other people and life in general.
NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Still none the wiser? Keep reading!
“Neuro” refers to your nervous system. It’s about how your brain and mind interact with your body.
“Linguistic” refers to the words and language that you use, including body language or nonverbal communication.
“Programming” refers to your habits of thoughts, feelings and behaviours which are often unconscious. By using NLP, you can become more conscious of these habits and then start to change them.
NLP is fundamentally an attitude, a methodology that leaves behind a trail of techniques. NLP is all about giving you more choice. The presuppositions of NLP are a key component that underpins many of the key principles behind NLP.
1. The Map is Not the Territory
We all have our own perspective on how we see the world (our Map). However, as everyone’s perspective is different, this “map” is not the same as what is actually happening externally (the Territory).
The map used for driving highlights the roads. However, to focus on the roads, the map hides most other information, such as hills and contour lines. A map used for hiking will focus on displaying paths, tracks and contour lines, whilst a sailing map will focus on shallow versus deep water. In each case, the territory is the same, but the map hides things that are not relevant to the specific type of map user.
So your map of the world focuses on certain bits of information and leaves a lot out. Think of your map as your internal experience which consists of beliefs, memories and life experiences. You then interpret the world based on your internal map. Our brains can only take in a maximum of 9 pieces of information at once. Each person will take in 9 slightly different pieces of information depending on their beliefs, interests and awareness. As a result, each persons map is slightly different.
Another idea of NLP is that you can expand your map over time. Your map can become more detailed and that will give you more choices in the future.
2. Respect each others model of the world
By recognising that everyone has a different map, viewpoint, perception or interpretation of life, it becomes easier to respond to their model of the world. Perhaps in the past, you judged other people as being right or wrong. Now, you can develop an attitude of curiosity about their map of the world, their belief system, and how it differs from yours.
A good way to do this is to use an NLP technique called “Perceptual Positions“. There are 3 perceptual positions, self, other and observer.
Think of a past situation that involved another person and didn’t go as well as you would have liked.
Start by looking at this situation through your own eyes. This is easy. We do it all the time. This is the perceptual position of self.
Now, look at this situation as if you were the other person. Sit or stand like the other person and notice what you were saying and doing from their perspective. By seeing it from their eyes, you will get a different perspective and a sense of what their map of the world is like. This is the perceptual position of other.
Now, imagine watching this situation as a fly on the wall or as someone else in the room. Watch yourself and the other person. Notice how each person reacts to what is being said. You will probably notice different ideas and different perspectives from this more detached position. This is the perceptual position of the observer.
I feel that this is one of the most important presuppositions of NLP and the world would be a more peaceful and happy place if more people adopted this presupposition.
3. The Meaning of your Communication is the Response that you get
If you communicate with another person and they don’t completely understand or get the meaning, then it’s your fault!
The responsibility is on you to develop greater rapport, change what you’re saying or your nonverbal body language. Remember that you cannot, not communicate. Even if you’re silent, you’re still communicating through body language.
Taking responsibility for your communication is one of the fundamental presuppositions of NLP and can be a real game-changer in business and in relationships generally.
4. There is no such thing as failure, only feedback
Would Thomas Edison have created the light bulb if every time he failed he wallowed in that failure for several days? Probably not.
Whatever happens is pure feedback. It tells us we’re slightly off course, so we can make a correction. Every result is feedback. This simple attitude shift will allow you to measure your progress and make changes more easily.
5. Modelling successful people leads to excellence.
As mentioned earlier, NLP came about after Richard Bandler and John Grinder modelled very successful people in the 1970s. They included Virginia Satir (a very successful family therapist) and Milton Erickson (a hugely successful hypnotherapist).
The people that they modelled had certain thoughts, beliefs, values and behaviours that made them successful, even if they didn’t consciously know this. NLP has some great strategies to help you elicit the unconscious behaviours of successful people.
6. People always make the best choice that they can
People will always make the best choice or decision based on their map of reality. Think about your parents. They occasionally told you off or said things that you didn’t want to hear. It was their way of helping you learn the difference between right and wrong so that you became a good kid and adult. Often your parents were dealing with other stresses and pressures at the same time as looking after you.
So people always make the best choice at any given time. As they learn, they can upgrade their perspective (their map) and make better choices and develop new beliefs in the future.
7. People work perfectly
No one is wrong or broken, people function perfectly, even if their behaviour is ruining their life in some way.
Every behavior has a structure or a strategy to it. That strategy is driven by the person’s beliefs that generate their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Find a more effective strategy (perhaps by modelling others), and behavior and outcomes will change.
8. Every behaviour has a positive intention.
We do things either to gain pleasure or avoid pain! – It’s really that simple! Separate the intention from the action, and the person can create a more positive and beneficial behaviour to meet the same positive intention.
Addictive and other self-sabotaging behaviors can be behind a positive intention to fulfill one or more of the ten fundamental human needs. Once the person realizes this, they can find a different behavior to meet this human need better.
9. The Mind and Body are a connected system.
The mind influences the body, and the body influences the mind. The next time you feel sad or depressed, try looking up. You will find that the depressed feelings will naturally drift away. Why? – because the body can’t do depression when you’re looking up!
When you breathe more deeply, you will find that your thoughts slow down and seem quieter and less obvious in your mind. This will then help reduce feelings of anxiety.
10. If what you’re doing isn’t working, do something else.
Start by doing, and notice what’s working and do more of that. If the actions aren’t getting results, try a different approach. Do all this with an attitude of curiosity. Take action because you’re really curious to see what’s going to happen and then adapt accordingly as you need to.
How can the presuppositions of NLP help change your attitude?
So these are the 10 presuppositions of NLP. Just being aware of these can really help improve your attitude. If you accept the idea that the meaning of your communication is the response that you get, then your attitude shift will be to take greater responsibility for your communication.
If you play with the idea that the map is not the territory, the next time you talk to someone that has a very different view of the world, you can be curious, rather than resistant.
If you believe that every behavior has a positive intention, then you can be more patient with people who are angry or rub you up the wrong way.
Knowing that there is no failure, only feedback can make a huge difference to your life and rid you of the emotional impact of making mistakes every so often.
A lot of people think of NLP as a series of clever techniques, but really understanding the attitude and methodology behind it, is far more important. If you can really master the attitude of NLP and these 10 presuppositions of NLP, then it can really help you live a more peaceful, happy and successful life, and have a more positive attitude as well.
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