In this article, I want to explore the NLP presupposition – ‘everyone is doing their best with the resources they have available’ because this has been one that has been challenging for me personally, in the past. Sometimes it continues to be a challenge for me. It’s also one that I’ve stumbled across previously, but was worded in a slightly different way. This was in a book that I had been reading called, ‘Daring Greatly’, by Brené Brown. She is the lady that did the TED talk about vulnerability and shame. If you haven’t seen those, then definitely go and see them!

In the book Daring Greatly, it stopped at, ‘everyone is doing the best that they can’. In NLP language, we add on, ‘with the resources they have available to them at that moment.’ NLP’ers like to be a bit more specific about these things! I remember having a conversation with someone about this a little while ago. I know that fundamentally I believe it – but there are just some days when I struggle with it because sometimes I think, “really, is that the best you can do?” The answer internally is, “no, I don’t think it is the best they can do!”

The truth is when we are thinking about, ‘the best that an employee in the workplace can do’, they may be able to do better, but as the NLP presupposition says; ‘with the resources they have available to them at that particular moment’ – that’s the key part. We all have more power, more skill and more intelligence available to us than we perhaps tap into from one moment to the next, and there might be certain things that we’re thinking, certain emotions at play – certain memories that are getting in the way of us being able to really utilise all of the skills and all of the power that we have within us, at that moment in time.

I was actually speaking to an employer about this presupposition recently. I said, ‘well here’s an idea of what NLP is about – this is one of our presuppositions’, and it was really quite interesting because they referenced an employee in their response and said, ‘I don’t think they’re doing the best that they can’. He sees his employee behaving a certain way and believe that they can do better, or he sees them only putting in a certain amount of effort and believes that they can do better. I think with hindsight, what I perhaps did was, I used the ‘Daring Greatly’ version of the presupposition. Which was, ‘everyone is doing the best that they can’, rather than the full NLP version which finishes off with –  ‘with the resources they have available to them at that moment in time’.

If you or someone you’re interacting with is struggling with the idea of someone ‘doing the best that they can at that given moment’, then here’s an extra thing that we can throw into it, that may be,  gives us that broader perspective on things; Let’s imagine that there is someone you are thinking about – and you think, ‘there is no way they are doing the best that they can right now, I know that they can be doing better ’ – here’s what I want you to imagine.

I want you to imagine that their soul could leave their body and that it could float out of them and sit down with you. Then have a conversation with you, about the significant experiences and memories that they have, that are affecting them right now. This includes conversations about:

  • Aspects of their life that are playing on their mind, that you didn’t even know existed for them.
  • The worries that they have, about the stresses that they’ve got
  • The bad things that they think about themselves
  • The self-defeating voice that’s in their head
  • The self-deprecation and all of the things that really hold them back, preventing them from being the best that they could be.

This might sound like a crazy woo-woo exercise for helping employees with mental health in the workplace, but you’d be surprised how much more compassion you will feel. It’s amazing how a small shift changes our own mental outlook.

I want you to imagine that their soul floats out of their body and has that conversation with you, where it tells you about all of these aspects of their personality that you didn’t even know that they had, and once you’ve heard all that stuff from them – could you then honestly tell yourself that they’re still not doing the best that they can?


By Gemma Bailey