NLP Practitioner – Presuppositions of NLP

Written by Terry Elston

presuppositions of nlp

The first subjects we cover on our NLP Practitioner training are the Presuppositions of NLP. If you have not yet been to any of our courses, you might be wondering as to why you would want to have a look at these.

Now, if I were to tell you that by just considering these convenient assumptions in terms of your existence today, you might find that in the light of one or more of these, you may alter your perception of your whole life – what would you think about that?


The presuppositions of NLP are neither rules nor regulations, and we do not even claim them to be true! They are simply very useful and powerful beliefs to have. Remember, NLP does not concern itself with whether something is true or not, but rather focuses on attaining a desired outcome. Coming from one or more of these presuppositions when working with clients, or just when communicating in general empowers you in ways you cannot imagine.

The Presuppositions of NLP:

  1. Respect for the other person’s model of the world.
    In order to communicate properly it is important that you have an understanding for the other person’s model of the world. All people have different ways of experiencing the world (different beliefs, values, filters, etc.). By understanding and respecting these differences instead of judging, better communication will occur.
  2. Behaviour and change are to be evaluated in terms of context, and ecology. Change is only ‘true’ and sustainable if all the environmental conditions support it!
  3. Resistance in a client is a sign of a lack of rapport. (There are no resistant clients, only inflexible communicators. Effective communicators accept and utilize all communication presented to them.)In NLP, being in rapport with the client is crucial! If you are not in rapport, you will not get the positive outcome that you are working towards. In order to get a different outcome you must alter your communication (If what you’re doing isn’t working, do something different).
  4. People are not their behaviours. (Accept the person, change the behaviour.)
    The behaviour a person is acting out is not the person itself, but the person’s response to something in their world. What NLP seeks to do, is to enable the person to have more choice in terms of their behaviour and their responses.
  5. Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have available.
    Behaviour is geared for adaptation, and present behavior is the best choice available. Every behaviour is motivated by a positive intent.
  6. Calibrate on Behaviour: The most important information about a person is that person’s behaviour.
    People’s behaviour is the only thing we as communicators can observe. Anything else is mind reading. We cannot enter the other person’s mind, and it is therefore important to calibrate on behaviour.
  7. The map is not the territory. (The words we use are NOT the event or the item they represent.)
    People respond to their experiences, not to reality itself. We do not have access to reality as it is, we do not know reality. We experience reality through our senses, our beliefs, our filter systems, our own personal “map” of reality. NLP works with changing the “maps” that are not working for the client.
  8. You are in charge of your mind, and therefore your results (and I am also in charge of my mind and therefore my results).
    Every action you take has first been a thought in your mind. For there to be an action, there must first be a thought. Nobody but yourself is in charge of your own thoughts, therefore nobody but yourself is in charge of your own results. You are the only person who can change your own results.
  9. People have all the resources they need to succeed and to achieve their desired outcomes. (There are no unresourceful people, only unresourceful states.) All people have the ability to create whatever they want in their lives. If another person can do it, so can you. By the process of modeling you can do it even faster than the person who originally did it, because you don’t have to create a strategy as it has already been made for you. It’s all about getting into the right state, the state of excellence.
  10. All procedures should increase wholeness. Parts integration is better than labelling to create separateness. Labels can be good for seeing things more clearly under a microscope, but ultimately a telescope cannot see the whole land.
  11. There is ONLY feedback! (There is no failure, only feedback.)There is no need to label our results as failures. Rather, seeing our results as feedback and information that can enable us to seek improvement is far more powerful.
  12. The meaning of communication is the response you get.
    The intention you have for the communication is just as important as the response that you get. The response that you get may be different to the response that you wanted. The response is feedback that you can use in order to alter your communication to get the appropriate response.
  13. The Law of Requisite Variety: (The system/person with the most flexibility of behavior will control the system.)
    The more flexible you are, the more opportunities you can take on in your life. If you have boundaries, you restrict yourself. Being open and flexible simply creates more choices in life.
  14. All procedures should be designed to increase choice.
    The more choices you have, the freer you are and the more influence you have.

The Presuppositions of NLP, written by Terry Elston