Every Action has a Positive Intention

“Every Action has a positive intention”, is an NLP presupposition which we should all be mindful of.  So often, we assume the worst in people – that someone is foolish for taking a particular action or selfish, or unkind…

Instead the NLP presupposition assumes that every time someone acts, they are trying to achieve something or avoid something, but that intention is coming from a good place (based on their resources, beliefs and experiences).

In my coaching sessions I have often come across clients who are angry with a colleague; a colleague whose actions may have caused upset; may have lost the organisation customers; or caused damage in some way.  Clients become so focused on the resulting outcome, that they fail to understand that their colleague did not come to work with the intention of doing a bad job.  In fact, most people go to work wanting to do the best they can but sometimes it goes wrong: in trying to achieve something, they take an action which they believe is the right one, but it results in something unintended.  Asking clients to see it from the colleague’s perspective or to discuss the learning from it, rather than dealing only with the outcome, is far more productive (and supportive) and often prevents the incident from becoming more damaging.

I often have to remind myself of this presupposition when it comes to my children too.  Once I left my son in the living room for a few minutes to come back in and find him drawing on the floor.  I instantly wanted to shout and tell him to stop, but reminded myself not to.  Instead, I asked him what he was trying to do, “I’m making a cave!”, he replied, beaming from ear to ear.  My heart instantly melting and I said, “Ok, that sounds fabulous – how about we get some giant paper, so you can make your cave really big and so it doesn’t damage the floor?”.  “Yes, please.”, he replied, eager to keep playing and to keep me happy.

The outcome was good: my son got what he wanted; and not only did my approach save any more damage; it also allowed everyone to continue to feel good (instead of causing upset which would have happened if I shouted).

Remembering that people’s actions generally come from a good intention really does have benefits, for working relationships and at home.