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Developing Empathy and Understanding of self and for Others

The following information is provided so that you can begin to understand other people.  Of course we are only able to scratch the surface here however the next to concepts will give you a greater awareness of what makes other people tick.  The benefit to you is that you will be able to look at any situation and say 'well, I can understand why this person is behaving like this.  I may not agree with it but I understand it."   The world will begin to make more sense to you. 

The first concept is the Presuppositions of NLP.


Presuppositions of NLP is a component of Neuro Linguistic Programming that I found to be extremely powerful and it has changed the way I relate to people.  The NLP Presuppositions are convenient beliefs.  This means that they are not necessarily true.  If you consider that our beliefs are how we filter information,  influence our perceptions and and structure reality, then beliefs are extremely powerful.


In the context of coaching practitioners are asked to accept these beliefs because they allow us to see beyond the personality and the behavior of our clients.  The benefit of this is that no matter who our clients are we can see them as already magnificent.  This idea can be adopted by anyone wishing to develop a deeper understanding of the world around them and the people they interact with. 


Let me give you an example.  I believe that everyone is magnificent and that we all have potential of which we may not be aware of or perhaps we are incapable of accessing.  If I didn't believe this and you came to my office for coaching, I would look at you and say "well, I don't think there is anything I can do for you because........"   Because I hold this belief of you and for you I am able to get the best best outcome for you.  The moment you walk into my office your success is a done deal.  

I believe the Presuppositions of NLP will help you in interact with people in all areas of your life. 

The Presuppositions of NLP.

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

​As you are now aware we all have a different model of reality.  When you consider all the different experiences we each have during our imprint years, the beliefs we adopt, the values we a taught, it’s not possible for everyone to have the exact same model of reality.   It's important then to accept this and respect the others model of the world.  You don't have to accept it or change it.  You simply need to respect it.   What you are actually doing is with holding your personal judgement and seeing people from their model of the world. ​  In the classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird Atticus Finch said to Gem,” You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." --Atticus 

This presupposition is the lens through which you can see the person behind the behaviour, and you can walk around in someone else’s reality.

My son, Harper, had just started school. On the first day of second term I dressed him in his winter uniform but I forgot to put on his tie.  My husband, Kirk, dropped him off at school and when Harper realized that all the other kids had their ties on he burst into tears and was inconsolable for about 40 minutes.  Kirk called me and told me what had happened.  At first, I was frustrated because I really wanted Harper to realize that it’s OK to be different.  However, from his 6-year-old model of the world he needed to look the same.  In that moment and in that context being the same was important to him.  So, I let it go of my model of the world and decided not to lecture him about being different.  Instead I was able to support him in being the same.  You see, just because I believe in something different doesn’t make it right for him.


2. People are not their behaviours. 

A person’s behaviour is not who they are.  People are more than their behaviour. 

(Accept the person: change the behaviour.) 

Behaviour is simply who they are being in that moment, determined by what their model of the world is in that moment, and what resources are available to them in that moment.   There is always more to a person than that.

People tend to describe themselves by what they do.  I am a lawyer, I am an artist, I am …….. and so on.  What they are describing is their behaviour in a certain context.  Not who they are. 

  • We need to believe that people are more than their behaviour

  • It’s important not to label people according to their behaviour

  • It’s better to accept the person and give them the resources to change their behaviour.


3. Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources available.  

​Behaviour is geared for adaptation and the present behaviour is the best choice available. That means that whatever behaviour a person is producing, that’s the best choice available to them in that moment.  Every behaviour is motivated by positive intention even if it is a really negative behaviour.

Consider the behaviour of a bully.  The receiver of the bullying will suffer from the bullying behaviour and call it bad, or evil.  The bully is merely using the only behaviour choice available to him to fulfil an emotional need that is not being met. The outcome is positive for him, not for the victim.  (Accept the person, find another way to meet the emotional need, change the behaviour.)

When someone exhibits a behaviour that you unacceptable consider the emotional state they may be in and know that they are only adapting or doing the best they can with the resources they have at that moment. 

Think about it.  It kind of lets people off the hook doesn’t it.  Does that include you.  Of course, it does.

In NLP this is the presupposition of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is possible when you realise that everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have.  And that includes you.

That means that even you are forgiven for all the bad things you did in the past.  Because haven’t you behaved in ways that you’re not proud of.  I have.  And in those moments, I can tell you that I was not resourceful. 

So, this lets us all off the hook. We are all forgiven.


3.The map is not the Territory. (The words we use are NOT the event or the item they represent.)

Each person has an internal map of what a word means to them.  Each person has a different meaning for a certain word.  For example – my definition of love would be different from your definition of love.  The same with PICNIC.  Each one of us would have a different definition of the word picnic.  Inside of us, in our internal representations, we have a structure of the meaning of words.

The meaning of our words is different because we all have different experiences of the world, different experiences of events which we assign meaning to.  Meaning comes from our filters therefor it’s not possible that we would structure our thinking in the same way. 

We each have different words to structure our thinking, a different map that is not the same.  The words we use are not the event or item they represent. 



















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

  2. People have all the Resources they need to succeed and to achieve their desired outcomes. (There are no unresourceful people, only unresourceful states.)

  3. All procedures should increase Wholeness

  4. There is ONLY feedback! (There is no failure, only feedback.)

  5. The meaning of communication is the Response you get.

  6. The Law of Requisite Variety: (The system/person with the most flexibility of behavior will control the system.)

  7. All procedures should be Designed to increase choice.

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