Unconditional positive regard is not about liking someone.
Unconditional positive regard (UPR) is the foundation stone of many of the psychotherapies. At first glance it seems like a fairly simple idea. But unpacking what it looks like in practice turns out to be far more difficult.
One of the questions that always crops up is whether it is possible to have UPR for someone who has done terrible hurtful things. “I couldn’t like that person”, or “I would never approve of what they have done”, are frequent comments from people learning about UPR for the first time. But UPR does not mean you must like a person or approve of what they have done.
What it means is that you respect the person as a human being with agency to choose how to respond to their situation and that no matter how dangerous or dysfunctional they seem to be they are doing their best. This rests on the particular philosophical view of human nature associated with the psychologist Carl Rogers, the founder of client-centered therapy.
First, Rogers’ theory was that human beings have an innate urge towards socially constructive behavior which is always present and always functioning at some level. Second, Rogers’ believed that each person had a need for self-determination; and the more a person’s need for self-determination is respected, the more likely their innate urge to be socially constructive will take hold. For Rogers this provided insight into the best way to create nurturing environments at home, school, workplace and the therapy room.