NLP Technique - Perceptual Positions

NLP Technique - Perceptual Positions

NLP Technique - Perceptual Positions

Have you ever had the experience of another person being unable to see things from your point of view? It’s as if that person has such a tight grip on their own model of reality it’s impossible for them to contemplate another perspective.
Having said that to a certain extent, in certain contexts, we all behave this way at times because we are so immersed in our own map of reality. Have you ever been in a situation where someone has told you something and you’ve adopted their point of view and jumped on their bandwagon without taking a broader view and finding out about the bigger picture? That’s a common experience too. 
The benefit of being able to not only understand other people's maps of the world AND to be able to think in a multi-dimensional way is that you can improve your communication, be more influential, create and maintain rapport,, demonstrate empathy for others and be able to resolve conflict. Plus in the context of business, you can negotiate effectively, improve customer service and develop marketable products.
This idea of adopting 'multiple perspectives' is a model that, John Grinder and Judith DeLozier highlighted in systematically shifting from one perceptual position to another you can make available information about a situation that may have been out of your conscious awareness.
There are three main perceptual positions: first, second and third position. These involve seeing things from our own perspective (first), from another person in the situation (second or other), and from a detached viewpoint (third or observer).
When we want to expand our understanding of a situation, we can either use the other and observer positions in an ad hoc way, quickly 'trying on' those different stances.

First position

Your sense of self resides in the first position. This is where you naturally perceive your environment and the people in it. You will use words such as ‘I’ and 'me' to describe your experience, and have your own way of standing and gesturing that is personal to you. In this position you're associated, looking through your own eyes, hearing through your own ears (plus your internal dialogue) and are aware of the feelings in your body. If you can see yourself in your mind's eye then you are dissociated, and that’s not in first position.
When you would use first position
There are many benefits to using first position. When you're deciding on an outcome it's important to know what you want. It's the position from which people are assertive, expressing their view, and pursuing their own goals. Carrying out an ecology check from this position when considering outcomes ensures the action you commit to fits with your sense of identity.
Disadvantage to first position
In first position you only think about how things affect you because all you are aware of is your own perspective. If you only operated from this position you'd become egotistical, narcissistic and insensitive to the feelings of other people, and could easily end up trampling on them.

Second position

In second position you imagine stepping into the shoes of someone in a particular interaction and experiencing the world through their eyes. You take on their posture, breathe the way they do, and act as if you were them. You see, hear, feel, taste and smell their reality. Dissociating from your own thoughts, feelings and beliefs and associating into the 'other', you 'see' yourself through their eyes - and think of that person as 'you', not ‘I’. As you do this you increase your awareness of what things might be like for the other person. The more you can take on their beliefs, values, Meta Programs and other aspects of their internal representations, the more accurate you will be.
When you would use second position
By adopting second position you can obtain important new information about your relationship with the other person. You’ re able to develop empathy and compassion for them. You can also gather useful information about yourself in this process too. In our mind's eye we can look at ourselves, see your own facial expressions, your body language, hear your own voice, and get a sense of what it's like to be on the receiving end of your own behaviour. This means you now have increased choice about how to interact with the other person, which is especially useful when you couldn't figure out why they were behaving the way they were.
Diadvantage of second position
Those who get 'stuck' in second position can become easily influenced by others, and prioritize their needs over their own. Accepting other people's version of things can lead to a loss of self-confidence and self-esteem which can hold you back from fulfilling your potential. When you continually put yourself last there can be a tendency to take on other people's problems, which leaves you emotionally drained. 

Third position

Third position is like the fly on the wall or a CCTV camera. We see, hear and feel what an interaction is like from an external perspective. From this viewpoint we're able to stand back and perceive the relationship between ourselves and others. This places us outside the communication process and allows us to act as a witness to what takes place. In third position we are associated but detached from the interaction, which allows us to feel resourceful and analyse what's happening. The information we gather can then be taken back to first position.

When to use third position
The objectivity we get from standing back or taking a this fly on the wall viewpoint can be extremely valuable. When we're in the situation our emotions can get in the way of noticing what's going on, particularly when there's conflict or aggressive behavior. Third position is sometimes also called 'Meta' position, and features in many NLP patterns and change techniques, providing an opportunity for the person to stand outside their own experience when that's required.
In the next post we’ll take a look at the Perceptual Positions exercise.
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