NLP presuppositions

Presuppose Greatness

One of the things I consistently see people doing is presupposing problems.

We’re all trained by our educations to look for problems. Mistakes were the most frequent things pointed out in our work. Follow any weekend warrior sporting event and you’ll plenty of folks beating themselves up over the shot they missed.

The simplest presupposition there is, is existence. When you talk about something, there’s a presupposition that it must exist or else your statement won’t make sense. If I ask you if you saw the frogglewomp, you’ll rightly ask me what one is. You’d be assuming that there is such a thing until you had a chance to check it out (Google says there’s no such thing if you’re wondering).

When you’re communicating with people, there’s a strong tendency to talk about what we’re noticing, what we think the other person might be noticing or what we’d like them to notice. If we’re noticing problems and talking about problems, that’s what the other person will notice too.

The thing of it is that if you’re the one sending the message, the other person is usually going to go along with your presuppositions. If you say call me if you have any problems, the person is then going to be looking for problems. If you say call me with any success stories or other feedback, the other person will be more inclined to expect good things.

If you want people to expect to have a good experience with you, it helps for you to presuppose greatness in as many of your interactions as possible. The way to form a habit of that is to notice things that are going right. Tony DiCicco, coach of the US Women’s Soccer team, wrote a book called Catch Them Being Good. If you get in the habit of noticing good things, you’ll notice more good things. You’ll communicate positive expectations more often.

In the interest of disclosure you’ll need to convey things that you can’t put as positive a spin on. At least that’s what my parole officer says (just kidding).  When that happens, do your best to reframe it as a positive, talk about it in the past tense or nominalize it. All those techniques are covered in my “Be A Hypnotic Writer” course.

Instead of only noticing the shot you missed, notice what you did right in the approach and what you’d try differently the next time. Notice that you had the guts to try.

The point is to presuppose greatness more often. Talk about it and people will assume it exists. They’ll set their expectations accordingly.

Give it a try and see what happens.

More on presuppositions

Kenrick Cleveland recently posted on presuppositions.

[Quick quiz: how many presuppositions can you find in the title and that first sentence? I count 5 different ones off the top of my head. I put my answer at the bottom.]

His article is worth checking out at

I’d add something to his first example. Go read it first and then come back.

He uses the example of, "We need to fight the terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them over here."

I was snookered into believing that before so that one hits home.

He’s right about there being a presupposition on needing to fight terrorists. What I’d add is that fighting them here if we don’t fight them over there isn’t a presupposition. That’s explicitly stated.

Additional presuppositions are that there are some group of people that we can identify and demonize by classifying them as terrorists. Another is that there is some place we all agree is "here" and "there." That one is even more insidious because it goes completely unnoticed. "There" can be anywhere that’s reasonably not "here." That becomes Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, etc. Where does it stop? If you’re in the US, is Mexico or Canada here or there?

Don’t be fooled into thinking that presuppositions are simply innocuous linguistic tricks. Language shapes our thoughts and actions. That’s good news for you if you know how to use them and defend against them.

Here’s another good one if anyone wants to try their hand at dissecting:

"Since they want to die in Jihad so bad, I’d be happy to facilitate that arrangement."

[The presuppositions I caught earlier were that 1) there are such a thing as presuppositions, 2) that something has already been said about them (i.e. "more on…"), 3) there is such a person as Kenrick, 4) he knows something about presuppositions and 5) he has a blog he posts to.]