Uses of ‘Presuppositions’ in NLP

Presuppositions in NLP

NLP Practitioners use the word ‘presupposition’ in two ways.  One way refers to the belief systems of highly successful people in any area of life and the other is specific to language patterns and how language can be used to implant thoughts and images and that can lead to specific actions.

Presuppositions as Useful Belief Systems

Everyone who reaches a high level of expertise in any given field or area of endeavor has specific strategies, beliefs, and behavior patterns in common with other experts in that area.   For example, to be an excellent NLP Practitioner, you would take on the belief that states, “People have all the resources necessary to achieve any outcome they congruently desire.”    When you take on or share this particular belief system or ‘presupposition,’ as if it were your own, it changes the way you think and affects every decision you make about how you interact with people.

NLP Practitioner’s are also trained to take on the viewpoint that “Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources available to them.”   The practitioner who takes on this belief is naturally more tolerant of the people in their lives.  In addition, NLP Practitioner’s believe that, “There is no such thing as failure; there’s only feedback.”   If you don’t believe in failing you are more likely to keep adjusting your behavior until you do achieve whatever outcome you set your intention to reach.  There are dozens of these useful expressions of belief that are in common among excellent NLPers and these useful belief systems and they are collectively referred to as ‘The Presuppositions of NLP.’

Linguistic Presuppositions

The second usage of the term is based in language.  A ‘linguistic presupposition’ refers to something that has to be accepted as true in order to understand what was just said.  Consider the following statement, “Buy now, you must be wondering how to register for my next seminar.”  My sentence presupposes that you could purchase or “buy” something.  Note that the misspelling “By…” is intentional.  It’s called a ‘Linguistic Ambiguity’ when a word has more than one meaning.  The NLP Practitioner understands that your unconscious mind has to process all the possible meanings of the word or words spoken.  Your conscious mind may then choose the meaning that makes most sense, but in this understanding of how your brain works, the other word meanings are already implanted.  The alternate meanings are now in your mind.  This is a way to sneak a message past your conscious filters.

Now, let’s look at the word ‘now.’  When I use language this way, I am suggesting that you ‘buy’ my product or service as I was saying above.  I have also caused you to think about when.  The time is ‘NOW!’   To make sense of the sentence above, you have to come to the present moment.  Your experience just shifted.  It is not in some distant time frame any more.  The message is ‘do it now.’  The sentence further presupposes that there is a seminar and that it is possible to ‘register’ for the event.  The word ‘next’ suggests or presupposes that there have been other seminars and that adds credibility to my invitation.  If there have been others, isn’t it a bit more credible and inviting or compelling that you to be involved in the ‘next’ one.  Now you may also be asking yourself ‘how’ and you can ‘register.’   I haven’t left much else to think about.  I have directed your focus.  And if you weren’t ‘wondering’ before, you have to be wondering now because to make any sense out of the sentence you have to represent it in your mind in some way.  Yes, you could filter out or choose not to act on the suggestion, to just make my point more clear, where there was not a thought before, I have placed the thought in your mind at some level.  Don’t you think that is a valuable thing to think about how you will choose to do it now.

To further illustrate the point about how you have to represent what is being said, when you tell a child, “Don’t spill the milk.”, the milk tends to go right over, doesn’t it?  The child has to represent the milk spilling in his or her mind to make sense of the sentence just like you did in the previous example.  The idea, often a picture in your mind, is implanted and the action is immediate.  Children are likely to do what they represented in their minds before conscious processing can tell them ‘not’ to spill the milk.  Don’t have too much fun now, noticing how you can use language to be way more persuasive and remember that you can presuppose almost anything.

One last thing!  Use these language patterns with integrity so that you ‘do no harm.’  If you are new to using language patterns, remember that they are very powerful tools.

Other Examples of Simple Presuppositions include:

  • If I were to start a sentence saying, “You are learning many things…”, you have to represent to yourself that it’s possible to learn.  The words ‘are learning’ indicates an action is occurring and it is presumed to be happening now.  The word ‘things’ presupposes there is more than one thing that can be learned.
  • When I say the words, “As you continue to listen,…”  You represent the possibility of listening and the experience that you must have been listening already.
  • If I say, “George Smith left the party early.”, you represent or presuppose that there must be some person with the named George Smith and this person was somewhere and the place or location can be referred to as ‘the party,’ some specific party or event, and separate or different from another party or event.
  • I can say that “I saw him leave.” This presupposes that some male person was somewhere and is no longer at that particular location and that I was present in this previous location.

Other examples include:

  • “I liked the woman with the silver earrings.”  There is a woman who exists.  She could, and did wear in some way, silver earrings and I had some positive emotional experience that I define as ‘liking’ with regard to this woman.
  • “If wombats have no trees to climb in, they are sad.”  There are wombats. There are trees.  Wombats can climb in the trees.  The wombats can have emotional reactions.

NOTE: In the NLP Master Practitioner Certification course that is coming up March 6-12 in Phoenix and again in Ohio, May 11-17, 2015 we will spend about 3 of the 7 days learning more about the Language Patterns of NLP.  The prerequisite for NLP Master Practitioner Certification is completing your NLP Practitioner Certification.

Please contact me to learn more or to request a stand-alone 3-Day workshop on NLP Language Patterns and the Sleight of Mouth Patterns.   Remember ‘Language Creates Behavior.  I hope this short article above whets your appetite for playing with how much more persuasive and influential you can be in your life.  Contact me at 602 321-7192 for more information or to register.