The NLP Pattern of the Month: Reframing
The Principle of 'Positive Intention'
One of the most important and useful principles for managing change relates to the notion of 'positive intention'. This principle is especially valuable when dealing with resistances and objections. The principle essentially states that: At some level, all behavior is intended or has been developed for some "positive purpose". According to this principle, for instance, resistances or objections would actually emerge from some underlying positive intention or purpose. For example, the positive purpose behind the objection, "It is not desirable to be successful," may be to 'protect' the speaker from oversaturation or failure. The positive intention behind a resistance such as, "It is not possible to change," might be to prevent 'false hope' or to avoid unrewarded effort.The principle of positive intention implies that, in order to successfully change a resistance or limiting belief, these underlying concerns, or positive purposes, must be acknowledged and addressed in some way. The positive intention behind a resistance or limiting belief may be addressed directly or by widening the person's map of the situation such that they are able to see choices for satisfying their positive intent other than resistance or interference.
In fact, resistance created by positive intentions often arise from other limiting (and unrecognized) assumptions. For instance, the reason that a person may feel threatened by the "success" may be because that person does not feel he or she has the skills or support to deal with the social impact of being successful. This concern may be addressed by providing the appropriate coaching and guidance for developing the necessary resources. Another way to address this might be to help the person realize that he or she already has the capabilities necessary and is going to be supported.
It is also important at times to inquire directly about the positive intention or purpose behind a particular resistance or limiting belief.
The principle of positive intention is derived from the deeper assumption that people make the best choices available to them given the possibilities and capabilities that they perceive to be accessible within their model of the world. NLP processes, such as Reframing, are ways to help people widen their map of a situation and perceive other choices and options.
Thus, when managing an objection or resistance, it is useful to begin by acknowledging its positive intent and then lead to a wider space of perception or thinking. It is especially important to separate a person's identity and positive intention from their behaviors. In dealing with interferences, an effective strategy is to first acknowledge the person or their positive intent and then respond to the issue or problem as a separate issue.
It is important to realize that one can acknowledge another person's point of view without having to agree with that person, i.e. it is different to say "I understand that you have this perspective", than to say, "I agree with you". Saying, "I appreciate your concern", or "That is an important question" is a way to acknowledge the person or their intention without necessarily implying that their map of the world is the right one.
In summary, according to the principle of positive intention, when dealing with resistance to change it is important and useful to:
1) Presuppose that all behavior (including resistance and limiting beliefs) is positively intended. 2) Separate the negative aspects of the behavior from the positive intention behind it. 3) Identify and respond to the positive intention of the resistant/problem person. 4) Offer the person other choices of behavior to achieve the same positive intention.
Copyright © 1995 by Robert B. Dilts
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