top of page

Everyone is Doing Their Best: NLP Presuppositions

Updated: Nov 1, 2021

An NLP Presupposition

“Everyone is always doing their best. . .” “There is no failure, only feedback. . .”

Let’s talk about "intent." The two above phrases are fundamental, foundational philopsophical meta-model presuppositions which are extremely helpful for effectively practicing NLP.

These 2, along with a few others, are considered fundamental "Meta-Model Presuppositions" (for more on Meta-Models click here ) necessary to practice effective Neuro-Linguistic Programming because they open up total behavioral flexibility for the pracititioner to be able to let go of any generalizations, presuppositions, or judgements which can inhibit growth for the client. As we learned in an earlier article, a Presupposition is:

an idea I bring into the situation already, before we ever begin to speak, interact, or begin a session.

In other words, these 2 presuppositons help us make sure we are listening with a focus that this story has nothing to do with us, has no negative or positive consequences, and can be altered toward a more positive end if we stay flexible.

In summation, when searching for a practitioner, whether they are just a coach/speaker like myself or a mental health care professional like those I train to be faster and more effective, they probably should already have understood and adopted those two fundamental principles in order to properly assess the emotional and mental states of others and in order to remain open and resourceful.

  1. Every person is attempting to do their best according to them.

  2. No failure makes a person a failure, it has instead identified a faulty model and opportunity for growth.

Of course in NLP, we don't buy into the philosophical bedrock that there is any ONE WAY to approach NLP, the end goal is always the focus and how we get there is less important when using NLP.

Rejecting the Presupposition

It was a beautiful and calm summer evening at the venue where I was about to speak in 2017. It was a little chilly so I offered my jacket to one of the attendees. This evening only a handful of people showed up to the workshop; the first concept I tried to teach, our first presupposition above, on this particular evening struck a nerve with the attendee who borrowed my jacket.

As mentioned above, that first presupposition of NLP is that "every single person is always doing their best." In fact, if you are considering the behavior and intent of another, it is imperative to entertain the thought experiment where you imagine that you yourself would behave identically to anyone who has ever wronged you or behaved in a manner that you find disturbing, or even slightly negative if you were raised in their environment, with their genetic material, and had experienced life in the exact same ways. We can't know this, but what we gain in the thought experiment is empathy beyond measure. This first presupposition was where everything went sideways.

“Everyone is always doing their best…”

No matter how hard I tried to teach or rationalize this concept, this one attendee would not, COULD NOT, accept that everyone is always doing their best TO THEMSELVES. Why is this a difficult concept? Because she knew that occassionally she was spiteful, vindictive, malicious, and cruel; therefore, she was unconvinced of this presupposition. I asked her what it would cost her if she just began with that presupposition but allowed herself the flexibility to change her mind if a person admitted that their motives were not their best internal model. . .

Behavioral Flexibility (+/-) Upside/Downside

In the mind of this attendee, any person who hurts you, was most likely doing so due to evil intent and meant to cause real harm. She refused to see it any other way, and maybe she’s right. That’s right, for her safety, and in HER every day life, this may not be a good metaphysical substraite to adopt.

This metaphysics was designed by practitioners FOR practitioners who are seeking to help others in safe settings and spaces where there is room for them to take an extra moment before assuming someone is being malicious in their intent or behavior. This small change in the practitioner's philosophical substrate allows their behavioral flexibility to extend grace to the client. This will ensure the client never senses guilt or shame from micro-expressions, stares, sighs, etc.

This attendee, however, is not a practitioner and may have been one of the few people in this world who actually might have been involved with a clinical psychopath, sociopath, or narcissist. Most people DO NOT fall into any of these clinical categories, these terms get thrown around casually, but it is not all that likely that most people do actually get too close to someone who is socially dysfunctional and even if you do have the unlucky misfortune of getting involved with one, it STILL might be in your best interest to realize that even they are doing their best, but this is usually best handled by trained professionals when discussing anything diagnosed as "clinical."

What About Everyday Life Then?

By adopting the mentality that all others are, like ourselves, acting according to the best information, emotional intelligence, knowledge, beliefs, and genetic makeup available to them, it will help you analyze and assess the mental meta models that the person is using and demonstrating from an objective, unemotional, and rational position rather than thinking how YOU would have behaved reserving and mitigating judgement which can cloud our resourcefulness.

Intention > Outcome

“There is no failure, only feedback.

Everyone is always trying to obtain the best possible outcomes, but chances are, they have shitty models in place. So, what is going to happen most often for most people? Failure.

We learned this concept from reading that crappy book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki or so I have heard. I don’t really read self-help books, but apparently, no matter how smart or talented you are, if you had a poor dad, you are probably poor, and if you had a rich dad, you can be a real dummy and still seem to come out on top money wise as politicians continue to remind us.


This is explained by understanding “modeling and mirroring” which is what humans do to learn any new skill or behavior. Mirror neurons are the driving force behind our understanding of how humans adopt behaviors, we do so mostly unconsciously by observing the behavior of another primate. Focusing on the outcome we want can help us create new behaviors by activating our mirror neurons through visualizing the outcomes we do want and how they will look, feel, and sound.

If there is no failure, only feedback, we can accept that an outcome was not ideal without also feeling guilty for a negative outcome. There is no failure, this is merely feedback that this method is not optimal. If everyone is always doing their best and their intention is more important than the outcome than we can forgive those who have hurt us and we can forgive ourselves for unintentionally hurting others due to our choices and behaviors.


Presuppositions are the driving factors behind our behaviors, beliefs, and knowledge; by adopting the 2 primary presuppositions of NLP, we can begin to rationalize and compartmentalize behaviors which used to cause us real anxiety or emotional discomfort.

By accepting this powerful MindShift Strategy, you can gain emotional intelligence, help others, and Be Your Own Hero.



James is a Human Behavioral Specialist living in Tulsa, who is skilled in Linguistics, NLP, Mentalism, & Counseling, creating content so YOU WILL “Be your own HERO.” -James Pesch

104 views0 comments


bottom of page