Outside of psychotherapy, social work, parenting, or corporate leadership, there’s one technique that plays a crucial role in fostering character development, personal growth, and mental well-being: Unconditional Positive Regard.
Unconditional positive regard is a person-centric approach to humanistic psychology first coined by psychologist Carl Rogers. UPR is the cornerstone and a critical element of a humane approach to psychology, focusing on a patient’s welfare out of genuine concern. It is an unconditional act of seeing and accepting the human within, rather than being judgmental of their exterior character. UPR seeks to implement ways and means to help people with issues become better versions of themselves.
What is Unconditional Positive Regard?
Unconditional positive regard is now considered part of any strategy to improve people; it involves effective psychotherapy, good parenting, counseling, and employee welfare. UPR is best reflected in the words of Carl Rogers, who coined the phrase in a 1957 article published in the Journal of Consulting Psychology. Rogers says:
“The kind of caring that the client-centered therapist desires to achieve is a gullible caring, in which clients are accepted as they say they are, not with a lurking suspicion in the therapist’s mind that they may, in fact, be otherwise. This attitude is not stupidity on the therapist’s part; it is the kind of attitude that is most likely to lead to trust…”
Rogers sought to establish how UPR is the foundational belief that individuals should be accepted and respected without any conditions or judgments. It signifies an unwavering acceptance of an individual’s intrinsic worth, irrespective of their actions, beliefs, or emotions. This concept is rooted in empathy, transcending the bounds of disagreement or personal bias. According to Rogers, when a person realizes he is heard, he is filled with relief and joy that at least “Someone knows what it’s like to be me.” Unconditional Positive Regard now plays a pivotal role in client-centric or humanistic psychology, yielding better and faster results.
Components of Unconditional Positive Regard
According to Rogers, UPR is client centric psychology making it an effective tool of therapy, and therapists adopting these principles stand to gain a better understanding of the client and their trust. These are the main elements of Unconditional positive regard.
Rogers believed that self-perception and self-value play an essential role in well-being. People need to experience a sense of self-worth and see others positively. Self-worth improves self-confidence and motivates people to be more focused and committed to their goals.
Empathy, A Foundation
Empathy lies at the core of the UPR process, involving listening, understanding, and empathizing with a person’s experiences. Showing compassion is not about agreeing with someone’s behavioral traits, but acknowledging them and helping them manage or overcome their problems without bias or judgment.
Going beyond polite acceptance is acknowledgement and genuinely accepting a person, flaws, and all. It does not condone a person’s actions but acknowledges their fundamental worth as a human being
Open Therapeutic Communication
UPR encourages open and honest communication to make people feel safe to share their thoughts and emotions without fear of ridicule or judgment. Empathetic communication garners trust and transparency, cultivating deeper connections.
Impact of Unconditional Positive Regard in General
Unconditional positive regard (UPR) is the same as showing unconditional love or affection, but with a difference. In unconditional positive regard, it is all about showing feelings of love, warmth, and respect without the need to possess the attitude behind such feelings. For example, an empathetic boss or a therapist will not share a personal emotional bond between employee or client, but at the same time, can be compassionate, accepting, and understanding even when they have done something wrong. Parents show complete unconditional love to their children, but it isn’t unconditional positive regard.
In their formative years, children gain self-confidence, emotional security, and self-worth because of the love and acceptance shown by their parents. Unconditional positive regard at this stage of life can do much to cultivate feelings of self-worth in adult life. Unconditional positive regard, in general, contributes to image building and can be displayed by family, friends, relatives, partners, and members of a social circle.
Impact of Unconditional Positive Regard in Counselling
Adopting a UPR approach in therapy requires a therapist to view a client from a humane perspective, respecting them as human beings and understanding the reason for their behaviour. It is not necessary to like or accept a client’s actions but to understand and assume that a client’s actions result from a mental situation or condition and that they are doing their best to remedy themselves. A typical example is when clients share information about behaviour, they might feel is illegal, morally wrong, or detrimental to their health.
A UPR approach in such cases encourages a client to open up and trust the therapist with their feelings and thoughts, creating better communication and thus allowing the therapist to facilitate better approaches for treatment.
Several therapists feel that displaying unconditional positive regard in the first session of a therapeutic process establishes a favorable atmosphere for the client. Rogers believes that UPR can help people become congruent and realize their true self-worth to achieve mental well-being. There are other ways UPR impacts therapy, such as:
- Self-Actualization: UPR encourages and motivates an individual to realize their full potential. Accepted individuals are more likely to embark on personal growth and self-discovery.
- Fostering Therapeutic Relationship: UPR serves as a catalyst to develop open communication, initiate rapport, and build trust between the therapist and the client. Therapy positively impacts people when they feel accepted, understood, and supported.
- Empowerment and Independence: Unconditional Positive Regard helps people make better decisions aligned with their true selves. It also encourages them to explore their feelings and thoughts without the pressure of external expectations.
- Promoting Inclusivity: Unconditional Positive Regard encourages psychologists to understand and respect individuals from various backgrounds, which enhances the effectiveness of therapy.
- Professional and Personal Growth: UPR encourages psychologists to develop their interpersonal skills, thus making them better practitioners to deliver more effective therapy. It also promotes humility, empathy, and personal growth.
How UPR Can Impact the Workplace
Rogers intended the concept of unconditional positive regard to improve therapy, but research has found that it can even benefit the workplace. A working environment and interpersonal relationships between employees and employee bosses can all benefit from UPR. Adopting this approach can help resolve conflicts in interpersonal relationships. By not being judgmental of each other’s opinions and actively listening, individuals can understand each other’s perspectives and work toward mutually agreeable solutions.
UPR helps employees develop emotional resilience to cope with and bounce back from challenges. Employees who know they are accepted and understood are more likely to confront difficulties and tasks positively. NPR, adopted in corporate culture by seniors, motivates skilled employees to look beyond mistakes and obstacles and not perceive them as signs of inability or failure. Non-judgmental approaches foster a like-minded attitude for a more productive and amicable working environment.
Today, Unconditional Positive Regard has transcended beyond humanistic therapy to become a universal principle that shapes how we connect with others and navigate the complexities of human relationships. Embodying the fundamental characteristics of UPR, such as empathy, non-judgmental attitudes, and genuine acceptance, both psychology and human connection fosters authentic growth and a deeper connection through unconditional acceptance of ourselves and others.