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The Presuppositions of NLP/Neuro-Semantics

The basic NLP presuppositions express some of the central ideas that govern the field of NLP. Not only is NLP built upon these presuppositions, but out of them come the impactful techniques that allow people more choice and flexibility in their responses. Whether these presuppositions are “true” in any ultimate sense is not the issue. We utilize them simply because we’ve found them useful and enhancing as beliefs which enable us to do things.

1. There is no failure; there is only feedback.

Whatever response you get from someone is simply feedback from them, from their meta-programs for attending to data, from their perceptual grids for processing information and from their internal world of meaning (their model of the world). In other words, it’s their stuff; not yours. You haven’t “failed,” you’ve just found out what does not work.

2. We all respond according to our map of reality, not reality itself.

In using our maps for navigating the world, we have no other choice but to refer to them and use them to move through life. Others respond to us, not for what we are, but for what and how they think about us (from their maps).

3. The map is not the territory.
This classic statement from Alfred Korzybski in Science and Sanity (1933) establishes the foundational structure of NLP and the epistemology upon which NLP is founded, Constructionism.

4. The response you get is the meaning of your communication.

We never know what we communicate to another person since we never know what they hear or sense or perceive so that it is in the exploring of their response that you can get an idea of what must have gotten communicated. Communication involves a lot more than talking, it also involves sensory acuity and awareness (attentive listening). Successful communicators accept and then utilize all responses offered them.

5. In any connected system, the element with the widest range of variability will always be the dominate influence.

This “law of requisite variety” from the field of cybernetics identifies the value and power of flexibility as a success mechanism.

6. People are not broken; they work perfectly well.

Or, every experience or behavior represents an achievement. The personality mechanisms in people that consistently and systematically operate to do things. Often the problem is the content of what we’re putting through these processes; not the process itself. All behaviour is therefore geared toward adaptation and is purposeful.

7. People have the resources they need to respond to the world. They only need to access, strengthen, and sequence those resources into effective strategies.

Since people aren’t broken, the difficulty must be that they have difficulty accessing their resources to more effectively deal with the things they must deal with. What people may not have are the methods for finding, eliciting, accessing, anchoring, and firing off their resources.

8. We can model excellence by breaking tasks and skills into small chunks to express and replicate the Strategy of the performance.

We can replicate genius only after we have specified the strategy.

9. Mind-body are part of the same system and influence each other.

We hyphenate “neuro-linguistics” to map the mind-body connection and that they work circularly, each influencing the other.

10. It is better to have choice, than the lack of choice.

In changing things, having a sense of choice is one of the most power things we can add to our lives and the lives of others. Adding choices reflects a meta-choice.

11. Neuro-linguistic states are created by, and composed of, internal representations and physiology.

Any and every person’s state of consciousness, at any given moment in time, is a result of the thousands and millions of stimuli that the brain (and thus nervous system) receives from the representations we entertain in our minds in terms of visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory stimuli. It also results from the millions of stimuli received from our physiology— the way we hold our body, move, breathe, etc.

12. When calibrating someone’s reality, the highest information will be behavior.

This includes a person’s eye accessing cues, breathing, etc.

13. The fact that we use the same neurological circuits when we remember or imagine, we can use these to create new programs, skills, ways of thinking, and behaviors.

The use of the “As if . . . ” frame (imagination) and the “Remember when . . . ” frame gives us the ability to learn from the past and build anticipations for the future.

14. Separate Person from Behavior. People are more than their actions, words, emotions, roles, etc.

“Behavior” includes the larger macro-activities and the micro-behaviors of thinking and emoting.

15. Every behaviour/ experience has a positive intent.

Similarly, people get organized (structured) inside to accomplish things. Sometimes these purposes cease to be useful, outlive their usefulness, or can be accomplished in more elegant and effective ways. Yet behind every behavior is some positive intent. Finding it allows you to gracefully help a person reorganise themselves.

16. Resistance first and foremost indicates the lack of rapport.

People have a positive intention when they resist what we offer—it saves them by resisting what we seem to be imposing upon them.

17. Every subjective experience has two parts; content and process or structure.

These two parts of experience indicate two different logic levels. It also means that we can effect change at either level. Of the two, process or structure is more pervasive since it indicates a mechanism of the personality.

18. When you don’t get the response you want; try something different.

Being “stuck” means that what you are doing is not working so you trying to do it more, harder, louder and with more pressure! The program of “Try something Else!” when what you’re doing is not working makes for personal flexibility.