Do you have to know much about football (I don’t!) to find yourself open mouthed with disbelief at the news this week about Sam Allardyce (picture from A man in the first few weeks of his dream footy job as England manager, who everyone seemed to quite like and rate (quite a rare thing apparently) seems to have thrown it all away by being caught on camera breaking the rules for financial gain.

Why would he do that?

For most of us earning £3 million and all that profile and adulation would be enough, wouldn’t it? Would we be tempted as he has been? So what was he thinking?

His statement that it was an ‘error of judgement’  is pretty vague, (and doesn’t really tell us whether the act itself was the error or the getting caught!) but the bottom line is he chose to do it.

There are two NLP (neuro linguistic programming) principles that seem relevant here:

Every behaviour has a positive intent


Present  behaviour represents the very best choice available to that person

If those two things are true then we do what we do because, in that moment, it seems like the best option we have, the best choice.

Hideous things happen where it seems impossible to explain the motivation: murder, terror attacks, teenagers in knife attacks, substance abuse (add to this list as you wish), and more every day things too: a bullying boss, sharing something we were told in confidence,  being unkind to a friend (again, you’ll have your own list). Whether it’s watching others do it or doing it ourselves, it can be hard to fathom why someone would do something which seems unhelpful for them and for others.

It doesn’t make what is done right in a legal, social or moral sense, but for that person, in that moment, it seems like the right thing to do.

If we can accept that and be curious about the positive intent and how, for that person, it seems like the best choice then we can perhaps help them find an alternative, more positive way of achieving what they need. If we can turn that curiosity on ourselves and our own motivations then it can be really helpful.

The positive intent for Mr Allardyce? The press is suggesting it is all about money, and maybe that is the top and bottom of what he was thinking. But maybe there was something else. So often in life it is hard to fathom, but that doesn’t mean it is not worth trying.

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