Unconditional Positive Regard (Definition + Examples)

If you’re here, you may be doing some research on the humanistic approach and want some more info about Carl Roger’s theory on Unconditional Positive Regard. You’re in luck because this page has everything you can find. If we missed something, feel free to leave a comment below!

What is Unconditional Positive Regard?

Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR) means that even if you don’t agree with someone’s actions, you still continue to have an overall positive attitude and support towards that person. Although this was first used in regard to a therapist-client relationship, it can be applied to other relationships. 

Who Coined the Term “Unconditional Positive Regard”?

Psychologist Carl Rogers coined the term “unconditional positive regard” in his 1957 article, “The Necessary and Sufficient Conditions of Therapeutic Personality Change.” Rogers was also one of the pioneers of the Client-Centered Approach (Humanistic Approach) in the field.

Here’s how Rogers defined UPR in his article:
It means that there are no conditions of acceptance, no feeling of “I like you only if you are thus and so.” . . . It means a caring for the client, but not in a possessive way or in such a way as simply to satisfy the therapist’s own needs…It means a caring for the client as a separate person, with permission to have his own feelings, his own experiences. One client describes the therapist as “fostering my possession of my own experience . . . that [this] is my experience and that I am actually having it: thinking what I think, feeling what I feel, wanting what I want, fearing what I fear: no ‘ifs,’ ‘buts,’ or ‘not reallys.’” 

You can read the full article here.

What Does Unconditional Positive Regard Mean in Counseling?

The term was first used for therapy. When a client told his or her therapist something that the therapist themselves didn’t agree with, they still remained positive in their attitude towards the client and helped him/her understand their own feelings about their problems.

This humanistic approach led the field of humanism and was very effective in this aspect. The key is that the client feels accepted for exactly who they are and in a nonjudgmental environment. Allowing the client or patient to feel free to just talk about whatever is on their mind with no judgment, leads to the client realizing things about themselves on their own terms. The feeling of safety is what makes the approach so successful.

What Does Unconditional Positive Regard Feel Like?

When a client connects with a therapist, they may not know what to expect. People often go to therapy because they have had unhealthy relationships at home, and do not know how to accept unconditional positivity. Working with a therapist who does offer this positivity unconditionally may feel new, strange, and wonderful.

Here is what some Reddit users on the TalkTherapy subreddit had to say about the feeling of receiving unconditional positive regard:

  • u/andthenitwasyou said: “My T and I had a conversation exactly like this where I said I felt loved by her and she referred to unconditional positive regard. That’s what it feels to me. Fully accepted, loved, seen with acute accuracy, advocated for the best outcome even when I disagree. She told me she cannot tell me she loves me, as that’s reserved for her family. But I feel loved regardless.”
  • an unknown user said: “Makes me want to cry just to think about it. I’ve never experienced such warmth and safety before in my life. There’s a part of me that doesn’t believe it to be unconditional, as all the love in my life growing up was conditional. So I’m not sure how to deal with something that might be unconditional. I keep testing to see if it is 🤦🏻‍♀️one day I might stop.”
  • u/NaturalLog69 said: “It feels like being comfortable, like just able to relax and find relief. Like, I don’t have to worry about what I’ll say. I don’t have to walk on egg shells. And I trust that whatever I show up as no matter way I say, my T will accept me. I don’t have to worry about scaring her away or making her upset.”

You can read more about talk therapy and unconditional positive regard here.

UPR In The Workplace

unconditional positive regard in the workplace

So what does it mean for the workplace? A job that most Americans have at some point in their lives is retail, so we will use this. Most people leave their jobs not because they do not enjoy the work, but because of poor management. So how would unconditional positive regard look among your management team in the workplace? Here are some examples:

  • Giving praise where praise is due
  • Offering support and positive feedback when you’re struggling
  • Not blaming things not being done on your inability to do so
  • Caring about things going on that may affect work (car breaking down, marital problems, personal or family sickness)
  • Having an open door policy
  • Hearing the ideas and concerns of its workers.

Does where you work have Unconditional Positive Regard for you and your co-workers? Most job’s turnover rate would dramatically decline if these practices were used in the workplace, whether it is retail, service, manufacturing, or creative work.

Freelancers and customer service professionals know that unconditional positive regard, while difficult, can be extremely beneficial when it comes to earning tips and repeating clients.

Unconditional Positive Regard Examples 

In Parenting

Many parents confuse Unconditional Positive Regard with Unconditional Love. In fact, many people can’t tell the difference between unconditional love and unconditional positive regard. Unconditional love is offering affection without any limitations. With Unconditional Positive Regard, however, you don’t necessarily have to feel that love, you just have to offer a safe space to let the person talk and know that they are going to feel supported.

happy parents kissing baby

The reason that parents lean more toward unconditional love is that they feel that if they choose the latter, they aren’t going to feel that they are either not showing them enough love and are afraid their child won’t open up to them as much or because they feel they might cross into more of a “friend” type of relationship rather than a parent relationship.

Some parents feel that being a good parent means always giving unconditional love all the time, and they are right. But that love should be balanced too, giving a child that judgment-free space to express themselves makes them feel safe enough to talk to their parents without the fear that they will be harshly punished or be made to feel like they have disappointed them.

In School

When a student is struggling in school, how must a teacher approach their setbacks? One teacher argues that unconditional positive regard sets the standard for lifting up all students, regardless of their achievements. For teachers of students who have faced trauma or hardships, this approach can create an equitable classroom and give all students a chance to succeed.

A teacher using unconditional positive regard in the classroom may:

  • Kindly greet students who are late
  • Focus on forming connections before looking at a student’s achievements
  • Take extra time to understand the student’s perspective
  • Pay equal attention to all students
  • Search for alternative ways to teach material based on students’ unique needs

In Other Relationships

unconditional positive regard in relationships

Unconditional positive regard is key to being in a successful partnership. Let’s say that you go out with one of your close friends over the weekend and you decide to go out for some drinks. Your significant other doesn’t like the idea of you drinking without them.

Unconditional Positive Regard in this situation would be your partner letting you know that it bothers them and even if you still decide to go, putting their best foot forward and being supportive.

What this really means is that there is an open line of communication between you and your partner. The biggest part is knowing when to accept a behavior because it won’t matter much long term, and when you do not accept a behavior because it will turn into a problem.

Other examples of Unconditional Positive Regard in Relationships include:

  • Handling information that your partner tells you in a mature and positive way, even if you don’t like it
  • Working out disagreements without yelling
  • Not always having to be right
  • Agreeing to disagree and leaving it at that
  • Not everything is a relationship-ending ordeal; Two people, two opinions. Let the little things go!

This practice of Unconditional Positive Regard in its simplest form is respecting another person’s decision to do what they are going to do. Because we are all people with our own thoughts and feelings towards things, and they aren’t always unanimously agreed upon.

How to Apply Unconditional Positive Regard to the People In Your Life

People have a lot going on. We are stressed, inundated with information, and expected to produce results faster than ever. If you want to bring more UPR into your life, you first have to slow down. When you communicate with others, see them as people. Be mindful in your interactions and listen to what the other person is saying. What are they looking for? What do they want? How can you help each other?

Not every person is going to have the same type of regard for you, but that’s okay. When you are dealing with irritating people, remind yourself to let the little things go. Tallying up a big list of points against a person is not what unconditional positive regard is about. UPR suggests that you look beyond a person’s actions or intentions and continue to seek positive outcomes.

Summary: What is Unconditional Positive Regard in Psychology?

To sum it up in a short few words, Unconditional Positive regard is “Letting the little things go”. Respect everyone’s decision to have their own mind and thoughts. Don’t let the actions of others, and especially the actions of those you love ruin your entire day.

In the workplace that may mean letting your team do things their own way as long as they get the same result. Flexibility in the workplace can be a good thing, and fresh ideas in the workplace make businesses thrive.

In parenting that might mean letting your toddler pick out their outfit even though they don’t match and that isn’t what you would put them in. Let them be happy and proud of what they picked out and be happy for them.

In a relationship, it might mean letting go of some control to have a more balanced relationship. Talking about things that make you uncomfortable and reaching an understanding is very important in a relationship.

In whatever facet of life it is, you yourself will thrive if you treat everything and everyone with Unconditional Positive Regard. You’ll realize it is better for you to live like this as well. Not letting everything get to you is a huge weight off of anyone’s shoulders.

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Theodore T.

Theodore is a professional psychology educator with over 10 years of experience creating educational content on the internet. PracticalPsychology started as a helpful collection of psychological articles to help other students, which has expanded to a Youtube channel with over 2,000,000 subscribers and an online website with 500+ posts.