The Best of Intentions

Remember the old saying, “it’s the thought that counts?”

Have you ever thought about how many ways that you could apply that adage in your life?

I don’t think it’s so much that the actions don’t count, but more that oftentimes we simply look at behaviors within a particular context, and fail to see the motivation behind then.

I am constantly reminded of this in my work with children. Kids often exhibit behaviors that seem perfectly reasonable to them, but in the context of our “adult” world, are not going to get them anywhere! I had one student in particular that just acted out and acted out and acted out this morning–calling out, making faces, interrupting other students, invading others’ space–you name it, he was doing it. It was classic attention-getting at its most ridiculous. Finally, perfectly calm, and reading the exasperation on the faces of his classmates (who were doing an excellent job of ignoring him), I got his attention, looked him in the eye, and very calmly said to him, “I wonder if you are noticing right now that nobody else in the class is paying attention to you.” My intention was not cruelty, but to send this message straight to the part of him that was driving this behavior (in other words, the intention) so that he could begin to choose a more useful behavior–something that would cause him to receive attention in a more positive way. Using the appropriate voice tone, facial expression and language pattern was essential in communicating this message appropriately in order to elicit change.

NLP addresses this topic with a presupposition: There is a positive intention motivating every behavior, and a context in which every behavior has value.

The student wanted someone to pay attention to him, and that is a worthwhile intention. Everyone needs someone to notice them at some point. What the student needed to realize was that what he was doing wasn’t working for him.

We can all look at this situation, and see ourselves, can’t we?

Do you have a habit or behavior in your life that isn’t serving you? You might consider using six-step reframing, a technique developed by Bandler and Grinder in the infancy of NLP (back in the 70s) which can help you find alternative behaviors which still satisfy the positive intent.

It seems like the best of both worlds to me! Recognize the goodness of you, and your motives behind what you do, while finding new and more useful ways to satisfy those motives.

Toad the Wet Sprocket–Good Intentions

Be well, and at peace,


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