3 Big Ideas
A few months ago, I got to wondering.

I had read John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair "Whispering in The Wind". One of the points that John Grinder makes is that, in his opinion, there are no pre-set or required "beliefs" or assumptions that are necessary for NLP to work. Page 201.

He goes on to say that there is no need to subscribe to the "NLP Presuppositions" in order for the NLP patterns to work. The only measure of an NLP model, is whether it works or doesn't work.

I can confirm this from my own experience since, when I am working with an individual and using NLP methods, I do not have to check first that they know what the presuppositions are!

I also know that using the NLP presuppositions can have a great effect on myself as the practitioner, in terms of assisting rapport and offering the frames that are helpful for me to be receptive to a different point of view. And in turn, these NLP beliefs can be excellent reframes to help another's thinking.

However a question was raised for me which is "If NLP has no presuppositions, what is presupposed by NLP?"

In response to this I have concluded that there are 3 Big Ideas, without which NLP practices have no meaning. These ideas are:

  • Experience has structure
  • We create our unique realities
  • All behaviour is outcome oriented

  1. Experience has structure. Our experience is based on information that we take in directly through our senses. It is how we sense, perceive and experience the world around us. We 'compare' our ongoing sensory experience with our accumulated history and so give meaning to them.

    The way that we access our experience is through identifying specific patterns and sequences. When we perform a task, we will tend to make use of what has worked for us before. This happens at both a conscious and an unconscious level. Patterns and habits of behaviour are selected and then applied. For knee jerk responses, this can happen in a flash - sometimes to our detriment! We are wired and programmed to respond in certain ways - and we are our own programmers.

    NLP Modelling is made possible through being able to detect and organise the structure that a person uses that causes them to perform the way they do.

  2. We Create Our Own Realities. Our perception is all there is! The beliefs and values that we hold are constructs held at an unconscious level. Each of us can put different meaning onto a set of sensory evidence, or seek different evidence to support a value or related construct.

    By changing the scope for our evidence process we can 'reframe' the experience and thus our 'reality' can change. In his book 'Six Blind Elephants' Steve Andreas talks about two major ways that sensory experience is 'scoped' : time and space. Having applied a 'scope' to an event, we then 'categorise' it to draw meaning. One way to change our sense of reality would be to consider an event in a different time context - future instead of past for example, or a different space - over there as opposed to here. Similarly John McWhirter would suggest that by changing the label we give to an experience, we can change the connections we make.

  3. All Behaviour is Outcome Oriented. The TOTE model of George Miller at al, is much used in NLP thinking and applications. The entire notion of this early cybernetic model when applied to human behaviour is that whenever there is a difference between our present state and our desired state, indicated by the first TEST, we begin to behave in ways that we believe will close the gap. This OPERATION phase continues until when we reTEST the condition is sufficiently close to desired state that we EXIT. NLP strategies are formulated around this simple decision making model.

    What emerges from this is that all of our behaviour is directed towards satisfying some value that the system (individual) holds. And consequently the idea that all behaviour has a positive intention for the individual.

Consider an event that has just happened. You can choose one where the consequences were highly desirable or thoroughly unsatisfactory.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What was familiar about this?
  • What were you paying attention to?
  • What value were you seeking to satisfy?

These three questions encapsulate the principles explored in this article. It is only these ideas that enable us to put a language to our experience.

I would say that these three principles are the basis of NLP modelling. What do you think?

Derek Jackson


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