2 Oct 2023
We each have a unique model of the world that shapes our perceptions, beliefs, and behaviours. Our model of the world is formed by a complex interplay of our past experiences, culture, upbringing, personality, and other factors.
This model is not objective reality, but rather a subjective interpretation of reality that shapes how we see and interpret events and situations, and influences our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours.
As a coach trained in Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), one of the powerful tools I use to help clients explore their model of the world and taken-for-granted assumptions is the concept of presuppositions.
Good for: Identifying and exploring taken-for-granted beliefs and assumptions
Best used by: You; trainer practitioner
A presupposition is a belief or assumption that is inherent in a particular statement or question. It is not explicitly stated but is instead implied or assumed.
They are a key concept in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), which was developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the 1970s. NLP is a field that focuses on the relationship between language, behaviour and thought patterns.
In other words, a presupposition is something that is taken for granted or assumed to be true in order for a statement or question to make sense.
Presuppositions can be found in all types of communication, from casual conversations to more formal settings like therapy or coaching sessions. They are often used unconsciously by speakers as a way to shape the conversation and influence the listener's thoughts and beliefs.
For example, consider the statement "Have you stopped smoking yet?" The presupposition in this statement is that the listener is a smoker and that they are in the process of trying to quit, or the speaker wishes them to quit. This presupposition is not explicitly stated, but is instead implied in the question.
In the context of personal growth and development, presuppositions can be a powerful tool for reframing our thoughts and beliefs in a more positive and empowering way. By understanding and using presuppositions, we can challenge negative beliefs and assumptions and open ourselves up to new possibilities for growth and change.
Presuppositions can prevent someone from growing in a few different ways:
Reinforcing limiting beliefs that someone may already have, such as the belief that they are not capable of achieving their goals. E.g. Nothing good ever happens to me.
Closing off alternative perspectives and limiting someone's ability to see things from a different point of view. This can prevent them from learning and growing by keeping them stuck in their own perspective.
Focusing on negative outcomes or assumptions, which can prevent them from seeing the potential for positive growth and change. E.g. I suck at relationships, they never work out for me.
Limiting creativity by assuming that certain things are true or impossible, and by preventing them from considering alternative possibilities.
Here are five of my favourite NLP presuppositions
The map is not the territory: This suggests that our subjective perceptions of reality are not the same as objective reality. It reminds us that our experiences and interpretations of the world are shaped by our individual beliefs, values, and experiences.
People have all the resources they need: This assumes that everyone has the internal resources they need to achieve their goals and overcome challenges. It encourages individuals to tap into their own inner resources and strengths to achieve success.
Every behaviour has a positive intention: This suggests that all behaviour, even negative behaviour, is driven by a positive intention or desire. It encourages individuals to explore the positive intention behind their own behaviour and the behaviour of others, to gain a deeper understanding of their motivations.
Resistance is a signal for change: This suggests that resistance or opposition to change is a sign that something needs to change. It encourages individuals to view resistance as an opportunity for growth and to seek out creative solutions to overcome resistance.
Communication is inevitable: This assumes that all behaviour is a form of communication, whether intentional or unintentional. It encourages individuals to pay attention to their own communication style and to be mindful of how they are communicating with others, to foster positive relationships and achieve their goals.
To use learning about presuppositions as a personal growth strategy, you can start by becoming aware of your own beliefs and assumptions. Begin by questioning the accuracy and validity of your beliefs and considering alternative perspectives.
It can also be helpful to pay attention to language patterns and identify any limiting or negative self-talk. Once you are aware of these beliefs and patterns, you can begin to challenge and reframe them and replace them with more empowering and growth-oriented beliefs.
Techniques like active listening, asking open-ended questions, and seeking out multiple perspectives can also help you to broaden your perspective and increase your awareness of the limitations of your own perceptions.
Ways that you can use presuppositions for personal growth:
Assume the positive as often when we make assumptions about a situation or person, we tend to focus on the negative. Instead, try assuming the positive. For example, instead of assuming that someone is rude, assume that they are having a bad day. By assuming the positive, we shift our perspective and open ourselves up to more positive outcomes.
When faced with a problem, we often focus on what went wrong and why it happened. Instead, focus on finding a solution. By presupposing that there is a solution, we open ourselves up to new possibilities and options.
Presuppose that you have control over your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Instead of blaming external factors for your problems, take responsibility for your own life. By presupposing that you have control, you empower yourself to make positive changes.
When someone does something that upsets us, we often assume that they meant to hurt us. Instead, assume that they had the best intentions. By presupposing the best intentions, we can approach the situation with empathy and understanding.
Believe in yourself and presuppose that you have the ability to achieve your goals and dreams. Instead of assuming that you are limited in some way, presuppose that you are capable of achieving anything you set your mind to. By presupposing your own abilities, you can build confidence and take action towards your goals.
Ultimately, the key to using learning about presuppositions as a personal growth strategy is to approach situations with an open and curious mindset, and to cultivate a willingness to question your own assumptions and beliefs.
Thank you for reading.
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