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Say What You Mean



Neurolinguistic Programming, like anything else, has some beliefs or assumptions that trained practitioners always keep at the forefront when working with people or providing training for new practitioners. NLP-trained practitioners call these Presuppositions of NLP.


The first time I read the list of Presuppositions, my thoughts were “Huh?”, “What does that mean?”, “I kind of get it.”, and other things I won’t mention.

Spending a few (hundreds) of hours studying NLP in order to become a certified Trainer, all 14 of these Presuppositions became very clear and the understanding of each is something I use not just in coaching, but in all my relationships.


The List of NLP Presuppositions:

  1. Respect for the other person’s model of the world

  2. Behavior and change are to be evaluated in terms of context and Ecology

  3. Resistance in a client is sign of lack of rapport

  4. People are not their behaviors (accept the person; change the behavior)

  5. Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have available

  6. Calibrate on the behavior. The most important information about a person is that person’s behavior

  7. The map is not the territory

  8. You are in charge of your mind and therefore your results (and I am also in charge of my mind and therefore my results)

  9. People have all the resources they need to succeed and achieve their desired outcomes (there are no unresourceful people, only unresourceful states)

  10. All procedures should increase Wholeness

  11. There is only feedback (There is no failure, only feedback)

  12. The meaning of communication is the response you get

  13. The law of requisite Variety (The system/person with the most flexibility of behavior will control the system)

  14. All procedures should be designed to increase choice

  15. Today, I love this list. But early on in my training, the one that kept coming up for me was The map is not the territory. I struggled with understanding this and how it might be used in daily life. After my second training, I think I had an aha moment.

Let me paraphrase a short excerpt from a piece written by Dr. Adriana James:



A person from Mars comes to earth and meets you. This person has never experienced an orange. And you are now in the position to explain to him/her/it what an orange is. But here is the catch: you cannot show them an actual orange, not even a picture of an orange and you cannot have them drink a glass of orange juice. All you have is words to give this person from Mars an equivalent of an experience of an orange. Remember, this person has never seen, smelled, touched, or tasted an orange. How easy do you think it will be for you to do this job?

“Not easy. We use language and words to attach labels on experiences exactly as the grocery chain attaches labels on oranges. It is easy when you see the orange and read the label. But it is very difficult when you don’t have the orange and all you have is the label. Then you have to imagine the orange and depending on the explanation of the label you may end up imagining a weather balloon, a basketball, or the planet Mars itself. ”

So the map is not the territory.

However, that’s not all. Each word we use has a different interpretation for different people. Unless we define our words correctly when we communicate with other people we can talk about a subject all day long, but if we are not clear about what we mean when we use certain words, we’re hopelessly lost.


For those who need a visual, perhaps this will help:

Hopefully, with these examples, you can see the importance of understanding language and how we use language to create meaning. Becoming trained in NLP is one opportunity to empower yourself to become a better communicator in all areas of your life

My upcoming Practitioners Workshop will set you on the path to make some powerful changes in all aspects of your life. For more information, fill out the “Contact Me” form and we will have a conversation and answer any questions you have.


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