The most controversial and easily misunderstood of all the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) presuppositions:

Every behaviour has a positive intention

Widely contested and misunderstood, until you add in this second half that makes it easier to understand:

Every behaviour has a positive intention, just not always for everyone else

Every behaviour you, I and everyone else engages in, has a positive intention behind it, even destructive behaviours like violence, drugs and listening to euro-trance.

Believe it or not, even Hitler did the things he did for positive intentions. It’s impossible to know for sure, maybe he just wanted people to look beyond his height (the midget) and give him the respect he always wanted. Someone else might also want to get respect, but choose to head up a charitable organization to do that instead of the insane, genocidal route.

His behaviour had a positive intention, but it was only positive for him, and nobody else. And the example also helps outline the third part to this presupposition:

Every behavior has a positive intention, even if the behaviour isn’t positive.

How Do I Use This?

There are 2 parts to this, on you and on others.

Using This On You

We’ve all wanted to change some of our actions and habits, and sometimes those changes stick and sometimes they don’t. Why? One of the reasons is because we don’t understand that underlying that behaviour we want to change is a positive intention.

If you smoke, and you want to quit, you need to understand the positive intention behind your smoking. Maybe you smoke because it helps you to relax under pressure. If you quit, the positive intention is still there, but there’s no way to fulfill it, which makes it more likely you’d go back to smoking.

But if you recognize your positive intention for smoking, and find other ways that are just as effective to help you relax under pressure, it’s easier to quit.

Using This On Others

Suppose you want to help someone change his mind on something, maybe he believes that ‘there’s no learning experience only failure‘, and you want to help him adopt a more empowering belief, but he keeps refusing to do so.

One way to interpret his resistance is to think he’s being a complete asshole, just for the sake of it. But if you stop there, then you’re stuck. So what if he’s being an asshole? What do you do with that? Smack him on the head with Awaken The Giant Within until he ‘gets it’?

And to do something just to be an asshole is a negative intention, which is in direct contradiction with this NLP presupposition.

But if you can recognize that there’s a positive intention behind his ‘resisting’ your idea, e.g., maybe he wants to ‘remain true to his ideals’, then you gain more understanding and awareness, and you’re more empowered to work around his ‘resistance’ by coming up with a way for the both of you to satisfy your positive intentions, creating a win-win situation.

Why This Is Usually The Most Difficult Presupposition To Believe

Because it forces us to gain a higher level of awareness, and one that might be outside of our comfort zone.

It’s easy enough to understand that people like Mother Theresa, the Dalai Larma, your closest relative, your best friend, have positive intentions at heart when they do something, even if it’s something you don’t agree with.

But what about those terrorists who flew those planes into the World Trade Centre? A serial killer? A child molester? Even that guy who pissed you off this morning?

It can become a little more difficult.

Believing that they have positive intentions doesn’t make what they did all right, it only forces us to look at things from a higher perspective, and is one of the steps we need to take towards creating a win-win world.

Otherwise, they’re all just assholes, and the buck stops there.

If Every Behaviour Has A Positive Intention, What Would Be Different For You?

With that in mind, if you believe that every behaviour every one does has a positive intention, how would your life be different, emotionally, mentally, socially, physically and spiritually?

NLP 101 Series:

NLP 101: What is NLP? Part 1
NLP 101: What is NLP Special for The Super NLP Hardcore
NLP 101: What is NLP? Part 2
NLP 101: So Dark The Con Of NLP
NLP 101: How NLP Changed My Life
NLP 101: The Map Is Not The Territory
NLP 101: There Is No Failure Only Learning Experience
NLP 101: Every Behaviour Has A Positive Intention
NLP 101: The Meaning of Your Communication is The Response You Get
NLP 101: You Cannot Not Communicate
NLP 101 Thoughts: You Cannot Not Change The World
NLP 101: People Are Always Making The Best Choices They Have
NLP 101: People Are Not Broken
NLP 101: You Cannot Not Communicate: The Pygmalion Effect
NLP 101: Everyone Already Has All The Resources They Need
NLP 101: There Are No Resistant Listeners, Only Inflexible Speakers
NLP 101: Life Is A Series of Systems