Have you ever wondered why someone did what they did? 

Have you ever said, ‘if only I knew then what I know now?’ 

Do you need an approach to be kind to yourself and others? 

Here, red10 ‘sAndy Stanley introduces one of the16 concepts of healthy minds: that behaviour is the best choice given what we think we know/have at the time. 

Why on Earth did you do that? 

One explanation for our, sometimes erratic behaviour is the belief that everyone is doing the best they can with the resources available to them. This perspective, rooted in the principles of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), suggests that: 

·       Behaviour is an adaptation, and the choices we make are the best available at the time.  

·       Behaviour is motivated by a positive intent. 

If we accept this then we are less likely to accuse and more likely to show empathy in our day-to-day interactions. 

If only I knew then what I know now? 

Our behaviour is the result of a series of adaptations to the ever-changing environment we have grown up and developed in. From an NLP standpoint, each person’s behaviour is an attempt to navigate life’s challenges and fulfil their needs using the resources at their disposal. These resources might include personal experiences, learned behaviours, emotional resilience, and cognitive strategies.  

For example, if you react defensively in certain situations this might be an adaptive response, stemming from past experiences where you have needed a defensive mechanism as a means of protection. In this context, your behaviour is not a flaw but a survival strategy that has been developed over time. If you know what drives your behaviour, you might be able to change it. 

Try to be kind to yourself and to others. 

The notion that everyone is doing their best with the resources they have also implies that the choices we make are, in that moment, the most suitable ones. Our decisions are influenced by a myriad of factors, including our emotional state, past experiences, and the information available to us at the time. What might seem irrational or counterproductive from an outsider’s perspective could be the result of our attempt to cope with the situation based on our own unique set of circumstances. 

Thinking of it like this enables us to suspend judgment and approach others with compassion. Instead of labelling behaviour as right or wrong.  By understanding the underlying motivations, we can better appreciate the complexity of their decision-making. 

So, what should I do next time someone behaves weirdly? 

A core tenet of NLP is the belief that every behaviour is motivated by positive intent. Even behaviours that, on the surface, may seem negative or harmful are seen as an attempt to meet a fundamental human need. This positive intent might be a desire for safety, connection, validation, or personal growth.  

If you can recognise and accept this positive intent, then you might also be able to look beyond the surface-level actions and begin to understand the deeper motivations that drove the behaviour in the first place.   

This understanding leads to increased empathy and compassion and improves communication and connection in our interactions. By acknowledging the positive intent behind each behaviour and recognizing it as an adaptation to life’s challenges, we pave the way for a more harmonious and understanding society.