"Every behaviour has a positive intention" -  is the most controversial and easily misunderstood of all the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) presuppositions. Widely contested and misunderstood, until you add in this second half that makes it easier to understand: 

Every behaviour has a positive intention, just not always for everyone else 

Every behaviour you, I and everyone else engages in, has a positive intention behind it, even destructive behaviours like violence, drugs and listening to euro-trance. 

Believe it or not, even Hitler did the things he did for positive intentions. It’s impossible to know for sure, maybe he just wanted people to look beyond his height (the midget) and give him the respect he always wanted. Someone else might also want to get respect, but choose to head up a charitable organization to do that instead of the insane, genocidal route. 

His behaviour had a positive intention, but it was only positive for him, and nobody else. And the example also helps outline the behaviour to this presupposition: 

Every behaviour has a positive intention, even if the behaviour isn’t positive. 


How Do I Use This Here are 2 parts to this, on you and others. 

Using This On You 

We’ve all wanted to change some of our actions and habits, and sometimes those changes stick and sometimes they don’t. Why? One of the reasons is because we don’t understand that underlying that behaviour we want to change is a positive intention. 

If you smoke, and you want to quit, you need to understand the positive intention behind your smoking. Maybe you smoke because it helps you to relax under pressure. If you quit, the positive intention to fulfil is there, but there’s no way to fulfil it, which makes it more likely you’d go back to smoking. 

But if you recognize your positive intention for smoking, and find other ways that are just as effective to help you relax under pressure, it’s easier to quit. 

Using This On Others 

Suppose you want to help someone change his mind on something, maybe he believes that ‘there’s no learning experience only failure‘, and you want to help him adopt a more empowering belief, but he keeps refusing to do so.

One way to interpret his resistance is to think he’s being stubborn, just for the sake of it. But if you stop there, then you’re stuck. So what if he’s being an jerk? What do you do with that? Smack him on the head with Awaken The Giant Within until he ‘gets it’? 

And to do something just to be a jerk is a negative intention, which is in direct contradiction with this NLP presupposition. 

But if you can recognize that there’s a positive intention behind his ‘resisting’ your idea, e.g., maybe he wants to ‘remain true to his ideals’, then you gain more understanding and awareness, and you’re more empowered to work around his ‘resistance’ by coming up with a way for the both of you to satisfy your positive intentions, creating a win-win situation. 

Why This Is Usually The Most Difficult Presupposition To Believe? 

It is because it forces us to gain a higher level of awareness, and one that might be outside of our comfort zone. 

It’s easy enough to understand that people like Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama, your closest relative, your best friend, have positive intentions at heart when they do something, even if it’s something you don’t agree with. 

But what about those terrorists who flew those planes into the World Trade Centre? A serial killer? A child molester? Even that guy who pissed you off this morning? 

It can become a little more difficult. 

Believing that they have positive intentions doesn’t make what they did all right, it only forces us to look at things from a higher perspective, and is one of the steps we need to take towards creating a win-win world. 

Otherwise, they’re all just bad and the buck stops there.