Understanding Positive Intentions

This week in my continuing series about the NLP Pre-suppositions I have decided to  tackle what for many is the most challenging one to accept.

“There is a positive intention motivating every behaviour; and a context in which every behaviour has a value.”

When teaching NLP this NLP pre-supposition is one of the most important and needs to be presented sensitively. So firstly it is necessary to unpack and break down the statements made.

What do we mean by positive intention?

In a nutshell this is the idea that every response and reaction we develop as human beings has been prompted by an innate drive to survive. Even behaviours and thinking patterns that on the surface appear unhelpful were originally developed as the best option under the circumstances.

A positive intention relates to the person themselves and the outcome of that intension may not be positive for others. To make more sense of this I will provide you with a couple of examples.

Firstly, let’s take the case of a person who habitually loses their temper with others in a dramatic and frightening way. If we were to guess the most probable reason for this it could quite simple be a means to get their own way. Clearly it is not positive for the people on the end of this bullying behaviour!

Before we move on from this example however let us explore some alternative positive intentions. This may also be how someone gets noticed and receives attention, perhaps the behaviour was even praised at some point.

Alternatively suppose it were motivated by a deep fear of being bullied so by getting in first they stay safe?

Of course when considering someone else’s behaviour we are likely to be guessing at the positive intention unless you are working as a practitioner helping someone to change. Under these circumstances you might get some confirmation.

A second example could be someone who tends to be agreeable and accommodating of others. Perhaps they find it hard to say “no” and constantly take on too much work or responsibility.

The positive intention here could be speculated at as wanting to be loved or to seek approval. It could equally be to stay safe from harm by not provoking aggression.

The two examples I have given so far are things that a person might want to change, it is worth noting that we also have positive intentions behind behaviours and reactions that are helpful and effective.

Also a reaction or behaviour is only a problem if perceived as a problem by the person experiencing it. Someone could exhibit the two examples above but not perceive their behaviour as problematic even if others do.

When does the positive intention develop?

In most cases the positive intention behind major patterns of behaviour are developed in childhood totally out of awareness. They are a normal and natural part of our development. As children regardless of the quality of the parenting we receive we are at the mercy of the adults around us.

This means that we need to develop ways of “being” that will mean that we get to survive into adulthood.

For example, returning to the two scenarios mentioned above either could have grown up in a volatile household. The first developed and modelled the behaviours experiences as a way to survive. The second person could have developed this behaviour as a way to deflect the aggression and stay below the radar.

I use this example to demonstrate that two people can experience the same environment, perhaps even have the same positive intention but develop different strategies to survive. Equally the two examples given could have been shaped by a number of different environments.

As children we develop the strategies and behaviours we need to survive this in turn will shape and create our personality differences. The strategies developed will be the best we can come up with based on the knowledge and resources we have available to us at that time.

As a result of all of this each child develops their own unique belief system about who they are and what value they have as a human being. This will be the template of patterns that will drive our lives until something happens to prompt a re-assessment.

In adulthood we often continue to play out the same patterns even to the extent that we attract people into our life that will continue to reinforce our expectations. This can, for some result in an unsatisfying quality of life.

How can knowing about positive intentions help us?

If we understand that even behaviours and reactions that we dislike in ourselves are motivated by a positive intention we can be more forgiving of our own past reactions. Using NLP we can then begin to make changes.

Some positive intentions are just outdated and the interventions used in NLP can easily allow for new responses to replace the old ones.

In other situations the positive intention is still valid at some level. This also relates to the part of the NLP pre-supposition about there being contexts where the behaviour has a value.

The interventions used will include “ecology” steps. This means that as part of the intervention the unconscious mind will be invited to examine the original positive intention and preserve the learning from that time. This learning is then used to construct more appropriate, healthy alternatives.

Understanding that there are positive intentions behind other peoples behaviour and reactions will also help us to become more tolerant of others. This means we can be more relaxed about things that in the past may have annoyed or irritated us.

At the same time we may still need to put in boundaries or take steps to protect ourselves if the other person’s behaviour is harmful. The difference will be in our mental resilience, we will find it easier to bounce back if we understand how others are motivated too. We will be less likely to take things personally and will find it easier to be objective.

For me personally this NLP pre-supposition has been particularly helpful. It has allowed me to be more understanding when other people behave poorly. I am able to step back and look at situations more rationally.

Speaking to you as a practitioner there is a value in being able to help clients recognise the positive intentions behind behaviours that in the past they have been ashamed of. By accepting them and helping them understand that they have new choices now as a practitioner we can truly empower our clients.

On January 28th 2012 we are launching a series of one day workshops called

 “Your Brilliant You!”

These will be aimed at helping people re-connect with their own sense of worth and understand concepts such as positive intention. We are running these workshops as fundraisers for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

For more information follow the link below

. http://www.gwiztraining.com/Events.htm

Next week I will continue with a connected NLP pre-supposition about our internal resources and the fact that we have all we need within us.

About Melody @ GWizlearning

Melody spent fourteen years gathering experience of the business world working in banking, telecommunications and the public sector before co-founding The GWiz Learning Partnership in 1993. Melody has a Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, a degree in Psychology and a diploma in Psychotherapy. She is an NLP Master Trainer which allows her to run NLP Practitioner, NLP Master Practitioner and NLP Trainer Training courses certified by the Positive School of Intrinsic Neuro-Linguistc Psychology. She is also a qualified Myers Briggs practitioner and EI practitioner and added to all this is five years Transactional Analysis training, meaning she is able to help organisations access the hidden potential in their staff. She is also in demand for her work in transforming average or even troubled teams into high performers. Melody is a visiting lecturer at University of East London, teaching "Wellbeing and Positive Psychology" to undergraduates. Additionally, she is a member of the CIPD and is ILM accredited. Melody's interests are many and varied. She has a keen interest in personal development, canine and wolf psychology, conservation, movies and running. She also enjoys western horse riding, walking the GWiz dogs, nature watching and stage combat (particularly sword fighting).
This entry was posted in Emotional Awareness, NLP, NLP Practitioner, Perception, Personal Development, Self Esteem. Bookmark the permalink.

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