Personal Growth

Growth Strategy #24: Perceptual Positions

Personal Growth

Growth Strategy #24: Perceptual Positions

Personal Growth

Growth Strategy #24: Perceptual Positions

23 Oct 2023

Seeing things from other people's perspectives is not always easy. No matter how similar someone may seem, we all have a unique model of the world that shapes the way we perceive things.

Perceptual positions is one of my favourite neuro-linguistic programming techniques as it helps us gain an understanding of how others see things, especially in situations where conflict is involved. I've also used it as a process to help clients understand different parts of themselves, or to connect with who they were in the past or desire to be in the future.

It's about imagining yourself in the shoes of someone else involved in a situation, by taking on an objective third-person perspective. I have included the process with questions below.

Good for: Seeing things from different perspectives to better understand a situation.

Best completed by: You; a trained practitioner

This exercise helps to increase empathy, which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is a fundamental human quality that allows us to feel compassion for others, and it is an important ingredient in any close relationship.

Empathy does not require that we have experienced the same thing as the other person; rather, it requires that we be able to see the world from their perspective and to imagine how they are feeling. For example, we might not know what it is like to lose a loved one, but we can still feel empathy for someone who is grieving.

Likewise, we might not know what it is like to live in poverty, but we can still feel empathy for someone who is struggling to make ends meet. This can help us with understanding and connecting with others, even when our experiences are different.

During coaching sessions, I have mainly used this process to help people resolve conflicts, as it allows them to see the situation from multiple points of view and identify areas where there may be misunderstandings or disagreements.

When two people are in conflict, it can be difficult to resolve the situation without further damaging the relationship. However, using this strategy can help to defuse the situation and improve communication. I have combined the technique with hypnosis to deepen the experience and enhance its effectiveness, guiding clients through each position and using suggestions and imagery to help them fully engage with each perspective.

Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the co-founders of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, have extensively written about perceptual positions and their significance in communication and personal development.

The process

A person imagines themselves in different positions, like being a fly on the wall, to gain a more comprehensive view of a situation. These positions include:

First position: Seeing the situation from your own perspective, as if you were directly involved in it.

  • What am I feeling right now about this situation?

  • What actions can I take to improve this situation for myself?

Second position: Seeing the situation from the perspective of another person, as if you were in their shoes.

  • How might the other person be feeling about this situation?

  • What might the other person be thinking about my actions or words?

Third position: Seeing the situation from the perspective of an outside observer, as if you were watching it happen.

  • What might an unbiased observer think about this situation?

  • What patterns or themes can I notice by observing this situation from a distance?

By switching between these different positions, you can gain a more nuanced and empathetic understanding of the situation and the people involved.

The Cons

  1. Subjectivity is involved and is based on the individual's perceptions and assumptions, which may not always accurately represent the viewpoints of others.

  2. Overuse or misapplication may lead to confusion or dissociation, affecting one's ability to address real-life situations effectively.

  3. Time and effort is needed to practice this technique effectively, which might deter some individuals from fully utilising the technique.

  4. Limited Context might be available as one might not capture the complete complexity of certain situations, leading to an oversimplified understanding of complex issues.

In conclusion, perceptual positions has been an eye-opening journey for me. Stepping into the shoes of others and observing situations from multiple angles has significantly improved my communication skills and deepened my empathy for those around me.

This powerful technique has allowed me to approach conflicts with a fresh perspective, leading to more constructive resolutions and stronger relationships. While I acknowledge the subjectivity and potential pitfalls of this tool, proper training and ethical considerations have helped me navigate its complexities.

Incorporating perceptual positions into my personal development journey has encouraged self-reflection and emotional regulation, fostering a greater sense of self-awareness and growth.

With NLP perceptual positions in my toolkit, I feel empowered to embrace the richness of diverse perspectives and navigate the complexities of human interactions with greater understanding and compassion.

Thank you for reading


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