What do you really know about the way someone else’s mind works – their problems, their beliefs, their feelings, their intentions?
Well, you could make guesses – but you might be projecting your own beliefs, judgements or even unacknowledged emotions onto the other person.
Or you could go by what they tell you – but even if they are being as honest and sincere as they can, they will be blind to some of their own motivations and patterns, because our conscious awareness controls much less than we think.
Which leads us back to a principle or ‘presupposition’ of NLP: the only reliable information about someone is their behaviour. As ever, it’s worth reading the earlier article explaining this presupposition before you try out the ‘how to make the principle work for you’ ideas below.
Practical ways of using this presupposition:
- If you’re aiming to get someone to change their behaviour, don’t ask ‘Why?’ – it won’t get you useful information and may end up entrenching the behaviour.
- Check your guesses about other people’s thoughts, feelings and motivations against their actual behaviour. Don’t “mind-read” (acting as if you have certain knowledge of someone else’s interior world).
- If you’re a therapist, counsellor, coach, or consultant, don’t assume that a diagnosis or label of your client’s problem is all that’s going on. Find out what they are actually doing – their ‘strategy for having the problem’ as we term it in NLP – and let that suggest appropriate changes.
- What’s your standard method for deciding whether to trust someone? Neither giving your full trust automatically, nor automatically denying trust, is a good idea. Give people opportunities to be trustworthy in small steps so you can gradually build up deserved trust.
- What happens when you apply the idea that behaviour is the only reliable information to yourself? Is your behaviour always consistent with your self-image, and what you say and believe your values to be? Take a moment to actively look for counter-examples, times when you did not act as you like to think you would. What have you learned from these occasions, and how will you behave differently in similar ways in the future?