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.

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A change in perspective

“We can’t change others, we can only change ourselves.”, is a presupposition in Neurolinguistic programming which helps us to understand the differences between people but also the reactions that people have.

We all have experience, beliefs and values and intrinsic preferences (such as how we take in information or express ourselves) which means that we see events differently; and most importantly, how we react to events and interact with others.

So often in coaching, my clients raise issues about relationship with others – opening up about their frustration that someone has behaved in a particular way, said something hurtful or not understood their point of view.  And this is often followed a statement that the other person is, “unreasonable” and by the question, “How can I get them to change?”  The assumption being, that the problem sits with the other person and that by that other person changing, it would solve ‘the problem’.

In truth, the reality is, that we cannot change others but all is not lost – we can change ourselves which in turn, can improve the situation all round.  That change, usually starts with a change in perspective and by that, I literally mean trying to imagine what it is like to be in the other person’s shoes.

How can you do this?  Well, it starts by really imagining yourself to be them!  Start by taking on their posture, think about their likes and dislikes and what it is they need.  Then as you move on, think about what it is that they need from you.  The play out the conversations or interactions you have had with them; and think about how you may have contributed to the outcome.  Did you give them the information they needed?  Did you come with beliefs about how the other person would react, which affected the communication style (it’s surprising how often we are guilty of communicating in a defensive way because we are anticipating a particular reaction!)?  Did you take into account what was going on in the other person’s life and show empathy?

So often, when we see this new perspective, we get a huge sense of understanding and that as a minimum gives us a shift in how we see that event.  It literally changes us and can remove much of the angst and frustration around the event.

Furthermore, that new level of understanding gives us real insight in how we can change our communication with the other person; telling us what they need to hear, how we should say it and what body language we can use.  And guess what?  This change in us, often creates a change in the reaction we get – so good all round.

So next time you are getting frustrated with someone else (particularly if it’s an ongoing relationship such as family or work colleagues), do try to understand that person more, see a new perspective and don’t be afraid to change yourself – it will always be for the better.