In NLP we make an assumption about people that the behaviours they have (either for good or ill) are there because at some point they created a positive response for the person. If, for example, they get angry and aggressive in a conflict situation at some point this response got them what they wanted or kept them safe, however today or in a different context it may be hindering them or may even be destructive.
Within the NLP framework the idea of positive intent is an important concept, as it allows the practitioner to realise that the person that they are working with isn’t ‘broken’ or ‘damaged’ and that the behaviour is or was useful to the person at some point. The problem isn’t with the person, nor for that matter with the behaviour but with the Context. The where and when of the application of the behaviour is at issue and not the behaviour itself.
As NLP practitioners we must be careful when it comes to considering the positive intention of a behaviour as we can never know the exact context, nor the positive result of an individuals behaviour and we can only surmise the exact nature of the positive result.
The positive reasons behind a particular behaviour may be obscure or lost in the past, they may make little or no sense to the adult or analytical mind, and yet when the behaviour was initiated the result would have been a good one.
Accept and Don’t Question
As with many of the presuppositions of NLP it is simply a question of accepting that there was a positive intention to the behaviour and there is actually no reason (within NLP) to look into what that reason was. Some branches of Psychotherapy make the reason for an action the main thrust of the therapeutic approach, however for the NLP practitioner the WHY question never raises its head.
What is important is to simply accept that it is so and move on. As with much of NLP, this presupposition is about accepting the client for who they are and what they do and helping them find better ways to achieve their outcomes and it is not a way of trying to ‘fix’ them.