Presuppositions of NLP

The presuppositions of NLP (NLP Presuppositions) are otherwise known as convenient assumptions or beliefs, things that are plausible and generally good to assume. They form the bedrock for NLP in terms of helping relationships, improving communication and gaining the right mindsets for creating excellence.

NLP professionals adopt the NLP Presuppositions into their thinking to gain empowerment and also to enable them to coach and work with others in the best possible way to achieve their objectives.

The word presupposition contains a clue to their meaning. “Just imagine if this were true”. ‘Let’s presuppose that this is the case.” EG Just imagine if everyone had respect for the other persons model of the world. The world would be a better place, wouldn’t it?  It is possible for us to do and it would improve relationships.

Key principles of NLP Presuppositions

Just imagine for a minute “What frame of mind would it be best to have towards life and other people in order to be happier, more successful and kinder towards others (better to know)?”

Is it better to feel empowered or at the mercy of other people and events in life? Whenever we complain about things that happen to us and about the actions of others then we pass over our personal power to them. The NLP presuppositions help us to retain our power and use it kindly towards others.

We all have the power within to change how we think and act to get better results. NLP Presuppositions act as mind tattoos and guide our thinking towards being better human beings!

Here is an interesting one: Assume that it is true that the mind and body affect each other. Could you be kinder to yourself in your thoughts? How about if you could stimulate, even activate your own immune system, would that be useful? Assuming the belief (and it may be true) will make you feel better, more empowered, like you can make a difference – all of this will help you feel better about yourself.

The NLP Presuppositions are useful to apply to negative thinking. Whether the thinking is to do with self or towards others, just think “Which one of these could I apply to my thinking to improve it?” – This is called a re-frame and is a really useful resource.

These are the Presuppositions of NLP:

  1. Respect for the other persons model of the world.
  2. The meaning of the communication is not simply what you intend, but also the response that you get.
  3. The mind and body affect each other.
  4. People respond to their experience, not to reality itself. The map is not the territory.
  5. Every behaviour has a positive intention. Everyone is doing the best that they can with the resources they have available. People make the best choice they can at the time.
  6. Behaviour is geared towards adaptation.
  7. Accept the person; change the behaviour.
  8. Behaviour and change are to be evaluated in terms of context and ecology.
  9. People have all the resources that they need to make the changes that they want. We already have all the resources we need or we can create them. There are no unresourceful people, only unresourceful states.
  10. Possible in the world and possible for me is only a matter of how.
  11. The system (person) with the most flexibility (choices) of behaviour will have the most influence on the system.
  12. This is the Law of Requisite Variety
  13. There is no failure, only feedback.
  14. There are no resistant clients, only inflexible communicators.
  15. Having choice is better than not having choice. All procedures should be designed to increase choice and develop greater personal flexibility.
  16. All procedures should increase wholeness.

Presupposition of NLP


We have visually animated instruction to put all of these NLP Presuppositions into context and to show you how you may chose to adopt them in our NLP Training material. You can access this material online in our NLP online training centre.


Examples of NLP Presuppositions in use

Respect for the other persons model of the world

I recently stayed with my sister. She has a very different perspective on things to me, from her parenting style through to her attitude to food and waste.

Whereas in the past I may have been quite judgemental and tried to impose my views on her, since taking the NLP Practitioner training  I have been able to step back, and respect her views and perspectives. I am also able to think about her ecology and “reach” her at her place not mine.


The meaning of communication is not simply what you intend, but also the response that you get

This presupposition has been with me a lot since my Practitioner training. As I have also been developing my business, I have been very aware of my communication style and the Rapport I build with people. I have also improved my written communications (especially social media posts) trying to really think about how others will receive the communication rather than on just what I want to say. Trying to concisely explain “what NLP is” was one of many challenges in this area and I feel that I’m seeing significant improvement.


The mind and body affect each other

I always knew my mind and body work as one, but since the Practitioner training I have been more self-aware and attuned to my own body changes. For example before I give a presentation I always suffer from nerve sweats beforehand. I also get a dry mouth and it can feel like a forget to breath, I sometimes run out of breath mid-sentence and have to take a big gulp.

Being more aware of this on a conscious level helps me to be more accepting and take control. I give myself some calm time before a stressful situation which has really helped.

Since the practitioner training, I have also developed heightened awareness of others and am able to notice their unconscious ticks and idiosyncrasies which has also helped with my communication and rapport building.


During a 1-2-1 at work with a member of my development team, the topic of health came up.  My colleague said that he often felt tired and had little energy.

He said he’d been to see his GP, who, after running a few tests, declared there was nothing medically wrong.

However, he was still suffering and said he just felt exhausted from the moment he woke every morning.

I asked him what sort of thoughts he had when he woke up every day?

My colleague has a young family and both he and his partner have full-time jobs, so they lead a very busy life and, in his words, mornings are a complete nightmare of trying to make sure everyone is fed, dressed and out the door in time to get to school and work.  So, he admitted his first thoughts when waking were usually, “Oh great! Another day of stress!”, “I’m so tired, I don’t know how I’ll get through the day”, “I ache all over, I’m sure I’m coming down with something.”

I explained the impact our self-talk has on our physical bodies and how the unconscious mind accepts, without question, whatever instructions it receives.  So if it is constantly told, “I’m tired, I’ve got no energy”, that’s exactly what it will manifest in the physical body.

I asked him if he would try giving himself more positive messages when he woke every day and gave him a list of positive questions to answers (from the NLP Practitioner course) such as “What am I grateful for in my life now?”, “What can I be curious about in my life today?”, “What am I proud of in my life now?”

At our next 1-2-1, two weeks later, he reported feeling far more energetic (and grateful for what he had in his life!)  He has fully committed to using the questions every day and, after being slightly sceptical, now completely supports the theory that mind and body are connected.


People have all the resources that they need to make the changes that they want

I love this presupposition and it’s one that I quote often with my coaching clients, friends and colleagues. I am sure that this has also underpinned my growing confidence through the Practitioner training which is continuing through my Master Practitioner training.


People respond to their experience, not to reality itself. The map is not the territory

I have frequently used the NLP communication model with coachees and friends since doing the NLP Practitioner training. This has been an invaluable tool and I find a really easy way of explaining why we all have different views of the world and behaviours and also how we have all the resources we need to change these behaviours.


There is no failure, only feedback

My son is very interested in psychology and is in the final year of his psychology GCSE. He usually scores very highly in his exams, but the other week he was distraught when he “failed” a mock paper. It was on a specific area of psychology and he had revised it well before the exam, so was at a complete loss as to what to do, as well as beating himself up for not passing!

I talked with him about the NLP presupposition of “there is no failure only feedback’.

I explained that what had happened was not a failure but provided valuable lessons as to how to pass the exam. I also said that labelling it as a “failure” was not helpful as this caused him stress, dented his pride, and generated some anger in him at the “stupid” test!

Labelling it as feedback enabled him to remove the emotion, look more closely at where he had scored lowly and then come up with a plan to improve his score. Interestingly, he then, without being prompted by me, used modelling! His friend had done really well in the exam, so he spent some time with her to understand exactly how she had done that and the answering techniques she’d used!


Accept the person, change the behaviour

I am working with someone in my team who is under performing. He is going through a HR process called a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).

Without going into the specifics, the under performance is related to behaviours and not competency.

His behaviours are causing issue with other team members and many consider him to be rude and hence don’t want to work with him. The presupposition of accepting the person and changing the behaviour is really important in this scenario – both for me and the rest of my team.

The reason for this is it is very easy to judge this person based on his behaviour. However, using another NLP presupposition, every action has a positive intention, he must gain something from behaving in the way that he does.

As his manager it is critical that I accept him for who he is and work on changing the behaviour. I have explained this to him in our meetings and it has really helped us focus on where he needs to improve and what behaviours he needs to change as opposed to him viewing this as a personal criticism.

For my team, I have used the presupposition to reinforce the message that they should not judge him as a person because they don’t agree with his behaviours. The PIP is progressing well, he is improving his behaviours and my team are more tolerant of him.


The system (person) with the most flexibility (choices) of behaviour will have the most influence on the system.

A colleague from school, a young PE teacher, was unsure as to whether or not to apply for the upcoming position of Head of Department.

I knew he lacked confidence and was unsure of his knowledge base so I decided, over a couple of weeks, to coach him to become more up to speed on his understanding of the PE curriculum from a management perspective and at the same time increase his confidence by practicing mock interviews.

Realizing that he had gained confidence and had a strategic knowledge base which could affect positive change for the school he decided to apply for the post and subsequently got it as a shared job role.

In essence, he had understood the presupposition that “the person or element with the most flexibility in a group or system will have the most influence.”

By improving his confidence via exercises such as interview techniques and learning about strategic management helped him to gain the ‘most flexibility’.