Frame Games and Exceptions to NLP Presuppositions

How the “FRAME” we apply determines the meaning!

By Dr. Houston Vetter

Before I get into the meat of this article I want to say thank you so very much to Michael Hall for taking the time to respond and correspond with me. Thank you for helping me flesh out my ideas even if they may run contrary to the ones you have presented. It points to your desire for integrity, intellectual honesty and looking for the most useful tools. Much of the following is a result of Michael’s help.

I’m writing to present my disagreement with the article, “Exceptions to the NLP Presuppositions.” In that article, Michael pointed out what he considered was an exception to the NLP Presupposition. To me, however, the article actually proved the Presupposition true. Now I do have to say that as Michael explained the context of that article, he admitted that he did not write it as a formal presentation, but as a response to some things happening on some NLP chat-groups and to some of the Neuro-Semantics Trainers around the world.

The reason I’m writing this article is to focus on what can be added using some of the other NLP Presuppositions and the scientific method so that more clarity can be brought to this subject. Some people have no problem with seeing and reckoning with exceptions to everything. (A very high frame.) They think that’s part of the scientific attitude because they believe science deals with falsification, and inaccuracy, the Null hypothesis.

On the other side of the coin, instead of falsification and inaccuracy, one could see science as proving what’s true. This writer is not so much concerned with falsification, inaccuracy or truth as what is more useful, what works. So here goes.

The following is from the scientific method by the fellow, Mr. Edmund, who created, built and was the chief investigator for Edmund Scientific. Search the net for “the scientific method”.

The scientific method is the best way yet discovered for winnowing the truth from lies and delusion. The simple version looks something like this

  1. Observe some aspect of the universe.
  2. Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, which is consistent with what you have observed.
  3. Use the hypothesis to make predictions.
  4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.

When consistency is obtained the hypothesis, becomes a theory and provides a coherent set of propositions, which explain a class of phenomena. A theory is then a framework within which observations are explained and predictions are made.

SEAGEE¾ Search, Explore, Alternative Ideas, Gather Evidence, Evaluate, Educated Guess

The following is some of what I found on the “Null Hypothesis”:

The null hypothesis is often the reverse of what the experimenter actually believes; it is put forward to allow the data to contradict it. In the experiment on the effect of alcohol, the experimenter probably expects alcohol to have a harmful effect. If the experimental data show a sufficiently large effect of alcohol, then the null hypothesis that alcohol has no effect can be rejected.

For this writer’s money, in this case I think “Exceptions to the NLP Presuppositions” is the Null Hypothesis. In addition, because many of those in this field are concerned with integrity and ecology, I offer the following excerpts by Richard Feynman from his article Cargo Cult Science:

“The easiest way to explain this idea is to contrast it, for example, with advertising. Last night I heard that Wesson oil doesn’t soak through food. Well, that’s true. It’s not dishonest; but the thing I’m talking about is not just a matter of not being dishonest; it’s a matter of scientific integrity, which is another level. The fact that should be added to that advertising statement is that no oils soak through food, if operated at a certain temperature. If operated at another temperature, they all will-including Wesson oil. So, it’s the implication which has been conveyed, not the fact, which is true, and the difference is what we have to deal with.”

On its face value the NLP Presupposition(s) are very valid and in fact the one that we have been picking on “The meaning of your communication is the response you get’… is so valid and so much non-exceptionable (at least in the contexts that has been put forth so far) that the examples in your article and the way your handled Tom V. and the others on the users group were examples of using this Presupposition and it’s intended meaning, not exceptions to it.

Example¾ your choice not to continue communicating to the individuals on the chat rooms was because you came to understand that regardless of your intended meaning the response they gave was the only meaning you were going to get.

Therefore, you did something different¾ YOU CHANGED YOUR COMMUNICATION not the meaning. Because you know as well as I do you cannot NOT communicate. Not responding is a response/communication. Therefore, even if you want to call it an exception you really followed the presupposition to the letter. Because as we look at the presupposition and it’s intended meaning.

The meaning of your communication is the response you get.

This Presupposition presupposes at least two different meanings: “your meaning of the communication and their meaning of the communication”. I think one way one can make an exception is to get the two meanings (yours and theirs) mixed up. This presupposition is not about my/your individual meaning (content) it is about the meaning you/they give to my/your communication (process/context). My/your meaning (content) means “nothing-0” in this presupposition.

It is not meant to be ecological it is meant to lead you to ecology. Yes, even ecology is a process. Your assertion that it is a fact that there are exceptions, using this particular Presupposition as an example is attempting to make the process static and because, it is not the outcome (ecological) there has to be an exception. (Ecology is a part of outcome not the process of how to get it.) In other words, Ecology includes both content and context.

Here is a chart for clarification:

Content (static)=my communication

Context (process)=what you say I communicated

Outcome (ecology)=Content + Context

As I re-read your article, I think I have found where we have decided to cross swords. You feel that this particular Presupposition works better underneath other frames. You wrote:

This means that “The Communication Guideline” of this NLP Presupposition works best when embedded inside of several higher frames of mind.

An agreement frame to communicate, relate, do business.

An openness frame about being forthright and honest.

A Win/Win Frame of truly wanting the best for all, or no deal.

A investment frame to engage in the process of dialogue, listening, and adjusting in order to understand.

A respect frame that is willing to restraint anger, frustration, and upset, so as to not flame the other with emotion laden terms of insult.

My belief is that it works better, not below but above most frames. I think it works best as the higher frame. Because it wasn’t intended to help the frames you mentioned above, it was to let you know if you were getting close. If you weren’t getting close¾ Do Something Different is also a useful NLP Presupposition that your communication displayed.

Which is what you did with the individuals on alt.psychology.nlp and also what you recommended in your article. (As noted below) You took their meaning of your communication and realized at this juncture what and how you had been communicating was not getting you the outcome you wanted, so you-changed your communication tactic. Isn’t that the outcome of “The meaning of your com…”?

You also wrote:

It even works very well for trainers, coaches, teachers, principals, mangers employees, therapists, etc. deal with “resistant” clients. As a guideline, it enables one to first stop, re-calibrate, listen, meta-model, pace, etc. Yet even here, after half a dozen to a dozen attempts to match message sent and message received, and one party continues to not become more aligned, we can suspect that something else is probably at work. That’s when it’s valuable to check and/or create an Agreement Frame about outcome.

What are we seeking to accomplish?

What business do we have with each other?

What outcome are you seeking?

How can we work together toward that end?

This advice does not prove the exception it proves the Presupposition. My only recommendation is to NOT wait until a half a dozen to a dozen attempts to create the Agreement Fame about outcome. It could/ should be one of the first things you create, including all the other questions.

If I were presupposing the meaning of my communication is the response I get it would automatically send me in the direction you have recommended above. If I were thinking this might be an exception it could take a half dozen or so brick walls for me to maybe accept that the response I was getting is the meaning “they” are attaching to my communication thus proving the Presupposition valid in this case.

There may be exceptions but the things you have written are not exceptions they are proof of the validity of non-exception of this Presupposition so far.

Now your article does mention things outside of this Presupposition and attempts to tie them together. For example, below you make the statement “the other person does not want an honorable exchange of ideas. It may inform us that the other wants to rattle our cage, knock us off-balance, and pry some information from that they can use against us.” You start by saying “we could use the principle to conclude (my assumption the principle is the NLP Presupposition.) My God man, if we were using the principle in the first place (not could use) we would have come to this conclusion quickly and changed the way we were communicating, that can include stopping communication. Which I believe is communication.

This NLP Presupposition has nothing to do with making the other persons intentions honorable or less honorable. It has to do with revealing through accepting their meaning of what we say as their meaning, (regardless of our intended meaning) what their intentions are regardless of +/-. (It’s about the process.) It seems your examples are outcomes and content oriented.

You also wrote:

If a person wants to create hurt, insult, manipulate, etc., then we could use the principle to conclude that from the response, the other does not want an honorable exchange of ideas. It may inform us that the other wants to rattle our cage, knock us off-balance and pry some information from that they can use against us. Couples who go through divorce often end up playing these games of hurt. Parties and governments taking rigid positions in negotiations often play zero-sum games. And in doing so, they may use all kinds of maneuvers that seem to convey good will, collaborative negotiating, etc. Yet, it’s all a ploy, a seduction.

The no-fault, no-blame principle of communication then applies and best fits in situations of common decency when people are truly willingly to be forthright, honorable and working within a Win/Win framework. When we step outside of that framework, the principle becomes less useful, less effective. It worked wonders when Virginia Satir used it in Family Therapy and when Erickson used it with clients.

Again, I am going to differ with you, this Presupposition does not have to do with the no-fault, no-blame principle of communication. That is a frame you are applying over the top of this Presupposition and who says it should be above it?

Taken at its face value this Presupposition deals with the meaning that others give to my/your communications and has nothing to do with fault or blame. It does however point out ownership of meaning, which implies more than one meaning (ours/theirs not fault/blame).

You also wrote:

The fact that there are exceptions does not create a new rule. Surely we know that. And yet, as Houston Vetter has reminded me, some people will read about an exception and then use it to fall back into the Either/Or Blame Game. So I offer this caveat: Use the NLP Presupposition communication guideline again and again and again until you have plenteous evidence that there’s something else going on in the communication exchange. And, as you do, use the other NLP presuppositions to support and back you up: There is no failure; only feedback. The variable in a system with the most flexibility will have the most governing influence in that system in the long run. All behaviors are driven by positive intentions, etc.

Based on your frames exceptions may be facts, but not based on everybody’s (ok, mine) frames. Surely, if we all accepted your “exception frame” then it was useful that I reminded you of the eventual consequences of accepting this frame. However, if you accept my contention that this NLP Presupposition and it’s intended meaning means what it says and says what it means. One would not have to use this Presupposition communication guideline again and again and again until… and then use the other Presuppositions to support and back you up: One can/should/would use them all at the same time because then there would be no need to claim, “here’s an exception, here’s an exception”.

In your attempt to educate as to why some things happen the way they do, you have moved away from getting more skill(s)/skillfulness to taking a perfectly useful Presupposition, which you demonstrate it’s effectiveness very well, and attempt to put it under a bunch of different frames that fit your model. Instead of putting it over the frames so that it explains your model even better.

You see Michael, when I take the point of view that there are exceptions to everything then everything you wrote and all the responses to my long emails makes perfect sense and I see it your way. Every single reframe.

My challenge to you is to show me where you have not eventually used this NLP Presupposition and its intended meaning. Every example and every exception you have given are not exceptions to this Presupposition; they are blaring examples of it. Yet, because you are looking at all of this, (from above) through the exception frame it makes sense that there are exceptions and they can easily be seen. Quoting Bateson and the other geniuses proves only the existence of the frame not the validity of it. How about looking at exceptions through this NLP Presupposition frame? Neither is proven to be true, just that they both exist.

You wrote me:

The ability to discriminate, to make distinctions…, which as Bateson and Korzybski said, that’s all that’s in the world ¾ Differences, is what creates genius and when misused, “justifications” for misbehaviors. Ah, this is the work of consciousness, recognizing exceptions — tempering our judgments, and knowing that we can use “reason” for rationalization –and still choosing NOT to do that.

I didn’t realize that Polarity Responders were geniuses and people that sort for sameness just can’t tell the difference. Again, I’m reminded of what a great philosopher once said, “Anything can be proven logical, it just depends what you base the logic on!”

From the logic you have based your argument on it is proven logical. In the same manner, from the logic, I have based my argument on it is proven logical. (logic/Frame) So, I guess which logic or Frame is higher? He who runs the list, of course! Therefore, when I consider which frame to use, I believe you have yet to prove your theorem because you actually used the Old NLP Presupposition without exception to claim there are exceptions.

Michael, you have once again proven how very important the frame is. You were right when you came across this NS/Meta-Stating business.

Note: If you wish to communicate directly with Houston, E-mail him at hgvetter @