This Month’s Presupposition of NLP

This Month’s Presupposition of NLP is:

“More choice is better than limited choice.”

There are two basic uses of the word ‘presupposition’ in NLP.  A ‘Linguistic Presupposition’ is when something has to be accepted as true in order to make sense out of the rest of the sentence.  Most people tend not to question the part of the sentence they had to accept as true in order to understand the communication.  This is useful to understand.  It means that a persuasive communicator can bypass conscious filters by structuring a sentence to embed a desired message.  The same general idea is incorporated in the Presuppositions of NLP.  Presuppositions, in this usage are beliefs that, once taken on by an individual and accepted as true, make desired behaviors more available and generally more automatic in nature.

The Presuppositions of NLP tend to be useful beliefs that are necessary, or at least expedient, to learning or becoming proficient as an NLP Practitioner.  For almost any skill set, job description, or capability, a set of beliefs can be identified that help to codify what is critical in the acquisition of expertise.  These beliefs may be thought of as ‘rules of thumb’ or ‘heuristics.’  They are held as useful strategies for learning almost any skill.  Presuppositions focus attention on the ‘difference that makes the difference’ in acquiring or modeling excellent behavior.

The Law of Requisite Variety

The Presupposition stated above can be thought of as an expression of the “Law of Requisite Variety.”   In the NLP understanding of how behavior occurs, the person who creates the most choice in any given situation has the best chance of succeeding or of controlling that situation.”  In other words, it’s considered a good strategy to generate more choices in a given situation.  In Cybernetics and System Theory, Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety states, “The larger the variety of actions available to a control system, the larger the variety of perturbations for which it is able to compensate.”  An interesting corollary to that is, “the amount of appropriate selection that can be performed is limited by the amount of information available.”   In other words, “if you don’t create choices, your options are necessarily going to be limited statistically.” 

Most people, given a challenging situation, do what ‘fight or flight syndrome’ tells them they should do in order to survive.  When stressed or threatened people do a number of things to defend themselves.  For example, you may recall seeing a child who was not paying attention in a school setting and when called upon, did not know the correct answer to a problem.  The natural response is to tense the shoulders, look down, and slump shoulders downward and forward, putting the student in a poor posture.   You might have noticed sweating on the forehead or around the upper lip.  Other physiological cues include facial flushing, squinting, screwing up the nose, a quick heavy inhaling and then holding of breath, and either gutteral sounds and grunts, “uuhhh’s’ and’aahhh’s', or a squeaking sound or catch in the voice, and more.  Tightening of muscles especially around the neck and upper back, paired with slight pulling in of the neck tend to constrict blood flow to the brain.

The student cannot get enough oxygen into the brain.  The student tends to revert to any poor strategy at hand to relieve the humiliation, shame or other response to the unwanted attention.  Choice is shut down.  Ability to think and generate alternative solutions is shut down or limited. The student may evaluate that he or she is ‘stupid’ or ‘bad’ or reaffirm negative existing programs like ‘I’m no good.’

Will Power Is a Poor Behavior Change Strategy

This translates to a basic understanding of how change occurs or does not occur for any person.  An NLP Life Change Pattern chosen for the purpose of unhooking a problem  or stuck state will include the understanding that when you try to force a behavior to stop, there tends to be resistance and a person can actually become more entrenched or ‘dug in’, clutching to whatever behavioral choice comes to mind.  This is where ‘positive intent’ becomes important.

Presupposing Positive Intent

This secondary Presupposition of NLP states that,’Every behavior has a positive intent and purpose.’  When I have also taken on the belief, I may also recognize that I have created the behavior for some reason.  It’s been doing something for me, but probably not what I wanted it to do.  I may even be able to understand that I can admit that what I’ve been doing, is not working.  Almost certainly, I am no longer receiving the benefit of the original behavior and it’s underlying intent.  As soon I identify the underlying purpose for which I created the behavioral strategy, I am most likely to also recognize that there must be lots of ways I can get that underlying intention satisfied.  I can then loosen my hold on the old habitual strategy or recurring behavior.  I can then make new choices that I was not previously able to access.  I have a better chance of success.