Presupposition #2: All behaviour has a positive intension.

For the part of the person that is responsible for a particular behaviour, that behavior has a positive intention. Every hurtful, harmful, and even thoughtless behaviour has a positive purpose in its original situation.

In NLP, if we can find an alternative that is positive then we can change the resulting behaviour. So, if every time someone yells you cover your head as if someone will hit you, you are equating yelling with hitting. This is currently the only alternative available to you. But, if we can come up with an alternative meaning to yelling, say; someone expressing themselves because they feel like they are not being heard – then an subsequent yelling might mean hitting or it might mean expression of self. 

The more positive we make the alternative, our brains will most likely go to that alternative more often, than if the alternative is negative. So, in the practice of NLP we are always looking to hold the positive intention of the behaviour. This is the hardest task for a human being experiencing being hurt by a past memory over and over again. But, being able to hold there is a positive side as well as the negative side they are experiencing, allows them to move forward through the experience. Holding on to there is only a negative side, re-enforces the negative and keeps the pain intact. 

I find personally this is the presupposition I have the most issue with and bump up against it time and time again. Recently, I had someone cross a boundary with me. They performed a security check on me to find out who I was without having my permission to do so. When I asked them about their intent, they told me they did it for me and for them to feel more comfortable. And, they would find out about it anyway through me so it was ok that they got everything they wanted out on the table.

Now if I want to be able to have a positive relationship with this person, I would need to come up with a positive intention that I could hold about this person’s invasion of my privacy and his subsequent discount of my value of that privacy. If I don’t, I can choose to continue to hold the position that this person is never going to respect my boundaries and as such will never be my client, my friend and only a draining on my energy.

I personally hold, that a person gives you everything about them in the first couple of moments of meeting them – he invaded my privacy (something I honour highly) without my permission and told me that it was ok for him to do so. I know on a professional level for the most part, most people don’t change. Unless they are exposed to a major life event, but even so, many times this only lasts a week or so… permanent change is only created through NLP or a hugely painful event. In this instance, if I were to do work for this person, no matter what I would offer, it would not be enough. So for me, this isn’t a potential customer, or a potential friend, and just a suck of energy. If I want to continue doing what I do, I need my energy for the people I want in my life. Life is too short to be taken in by energy vampires even if you are in a helping profession.

So I would like to add the cavieaot, all behavior has a positive intention, what you choose to make meaning of and do with it, is your business… so the receiver gets to choose the meaning they get with the associated behaviour. As the receiver, you get to condone or not that behaviour in life – guilt-free. If a behaviour hurts you, you might want to figure out an alternate positive meaning for the original hurt (ie: the 1st time you experienced this hurt in your life), so it doesn’t hurt you any more when a similar experience comes up.

Tracy Joy is an NLP practitioner, author, and speaker in Vancouver, Canada. She is an international business expert in the area of human systems analysis and thinking change. If you have brain questions, send them Tracy and she’ll answer them on this blog. She can be reached through