Unconditional Positive Regard: Forerunner to Positive Intention

Unconditional Positive Regard: Forerunner to Positive Intention

positive intention
Spread the love

Unconditional positive regard is a concept created by Carl Rogers which states that people should be seen as independent and autonomous and their free-will and self-determination should be respected. It is the idea that people make the best choices that they can based on the situation at hand and their particular desires in that moment. Seeing things from this perspective can allow us to adopt a more well-rounded perspective and take a less reactive stance when dealing with others. 

Carl Rogers and the humanistic psychology movement was one of the first mediums through which the idea of positive intention gained ground. Rogers introduced the concept of unconditional positive regard. This framework broke from the traditions in psychology prior to humanism, which had to do with Psychodynamic Freudian theory, which held that unconscious forces determine our makeup and our behavior. In addition, B.F. Skinner’s behaviorism basically saw people as machines without free-will, programmed by the environment and products of conditioning. However, when Rogers came along, he changed all of that and introduced the idea of having an unconditional positive regard for clients. He championed seeing clients as people that you have a warm acceptance of. From there, different psychologists applied the concept of unconditional positive regard. Virginia Satir, the family therapist took the idea of positive regard and applied it vigorously to her work with people, and NLP developers adopted this framework. How exactly does positive regard relate to positive intention, though?

Positive intention in similar to unconditional positive regard in the sense that it also views people as autonomous and self-determined. Positive intentions says that we behave the way we do because an action will either be beneficial to us or to a part of us. If we interact with people based on the presupposition that their actions are inspired by positive intentions, although their current strategies for achieving those intentions may be misguided and harmful, then we might be able to deal with those people in a more compassionate way. Framing our interactions in this way also allows us to come up with ways to help people realize their own underlying positive intentions and work on fulfilling them in less harmful and more productive ways.

The Pygmalion Effect: How the Use of Positive Intention Can Inspire Self-Efficacy

Est. Reading time: 3 min

There is a myth of an ancient Greek Sculptor named Pygmalion who carved a beautiful female statue. The statue was so magnificent that he fell in love with it, and he asked the goddess Aphrodite to give it life. Aphrodite fulfilled his wishes and he ended up marrying this statue-woman. Pygmalion’s love and expectations helped to bring his creation to life. 

What is the Pygmalion effect? 

The Pygmalion effect is the idea that people are inclined to behave and act in accordance with other people’s expectations of them. Higher expectations of other people can lead to higher performance. It is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. 

People can be influenced to act based on other people’s expectations of them. For example, parents telling their kids that they know they are capable, hard-working, and intelligent, and that they are expected to work diligently and get decent grades. This expectation set by the parents can inspire the children to live up to those standards. 

What is Positive Intention?

Positive intention is the idea that people are autonomous agents with free-will, and we make choices because an action will either be beneficial to us or to a part of us. If we interact with people based on the presupposition that their actions are inspired by positive intentions, although their current strategies for achieving those intentions may be misguided and harmful, then we might be able to deal with those people in a more compassionate way. Framing our interactions in this way also allows us to come up with ways to help people realize their own underlying positive intentions and work on fulfilling them in less harmful and more productive ways.

NLP practitioners assume that behind most behavior is a positive intention. Typically, people are pretty good at naming their own positive intention when challenged (I was only trying to help…) but often have a harder time seeing the positive intention of others. 

Positive intention means that people do things because they think that they will gain something from their behavior. Seeing things from this perspective, we might be more understanding of people’s ignorance, rather than being overly critical of what seems to be their unreasonable behavior. From this lens, it allows us to look for what intentions might be underlying their unhelpful behavior. If we can determine what intention is underneath the behavior, then we can help them to conjure up novel approaches to successfully get what they want. Ultimately, with this model of thinking we become less focused on someone’s perceived short-comings and mistakes and more focused on using imagination and reason to develop new problem-solving strategies.

How does the Pygmalion Effect Factor into Positive Intention?

When a coach or counselor sees a client through the lens of positive intention, as capable of changing their behavior given the right tools and perspective, this can create a Pygmalion effect.  The client might start believing in themselves as well. Let’s imagine a scenario in which a coach’s client keeps procrastinating and not doing the work that he or she needs to be doing. If a coach sees this behavior as evidence of the client’s lack of willpower and fortitude, that belief could potentially leak through the coach’s body language and other forms of communication. The client could pick up on this and feel more compelled to act in line with the coach’s beliefs. Alternatively, if the coach perceives the procrastination as a faulty strategy that just needs to be altered, then this belief can also rub off on the client. Perhaps this can lead the client to be open, willing, and motivated to stop procrastinating as much.  

Rushing to Judgment vs. Cruising to Judgment: 

Positive Intention & Hanlon’s Razor

Est. Reading time: 2 min

Positive Intention

Positive intention is the idea that people are autonomous agents with free-will, and we make choices because an action will either be beneficial to us or to a part of us. If we interact with people based on the presupposition that their actions are inspired by positive intentions, although their current strategies for achieving those intentions may be misguided, then we might be able to deal with those people in a more compassionate way. Framing our interactions in this way also allows us to come up with ways to help people realize their own underlying positive intentions and work on fulfilling them in less harmful and more productive ways.

Hanlon’s Razor

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by ignorance.”

Or…

“Never attribute to negative reasons that which can be explained by other causes.”

Hanlon’s Razor is a principle related to the idea of positive intention. However, it does not deny the idea that people have ill-intentions. Hanlon’s Razor basically suggests we should assume that people make transgressions due to ignorance rather than bad intentions, unless there is reason to believe there were ill-intentions. The concept of Hanlon’s Razor doesn’t reject bad intentions outright. Yet, it does make the case that perhaps we shouldn’t rush to judgment about the motivations of others.

Hanlon’s Razor can be helpful because it can save us the stress and negative emotions that come with assuming ill-intentions. For example, let’s say someone is driving on the free-way and another driver cuts him or her off. The automatic thought response might be to get angry and yell at the incompetent driver. However, the principle of Hanlon’s Razor says that the driver who merged lanes probably didn’t realize how close the other driver was and made the choice out of ignorance rather than malice. Hanlon’s Razor can also be helpful in the domain of communication. For instance, someone you work with might continuously do an action that annoys you or gets under your skin and you might assume they are doing it intentionally. However, in reality they might be doing it because they don’t know any better and don’t realize that it bothers you. This opens the door for communication and allows you to express your feelings to your co-worker. Hanlon’s Razor can be a useful tool when interpreting the behavior of others and it can save us from unnecessary unpleasant emotions.


Spread the love