NLP In Action

Welcome to NLP In Action. Useful tips and insights to NLP, along with practical applications for you to begin to integrate.

This is Episode 008 of the NLP In Action podcast. And you would understand why this is number 8 if you understood fully where I’m coming from. Metaphorically speaking! This session is on Perceptual Positions. Most of you even if you’ve never heard of this will do this in some ways most days. But…. when you add some structure and methodology it will allow you to become a more rounded, could I say balanced person. Understanding perceptual positions can allow you to be the ultimate placater and mediator.


What are Perceptual Positions

The great news here is they are what they sound like. A perception of another position, in this case, another person’s position, or understanding of an event, situation, or even and upcoming one for example.

What you need to know!

As with all NLP, you will find variations to an on certain techniques. But as I aim to keep these in 10-minute shows I’ll deliver and explain the most common 3 positions. I like to do this process in 2 separate rounds, but as with all NLP, you can simply mix and match until you get the desired result and or state. The first of the rounds is to allow you to obtain insights and foresight, and the second round is the same thing but now applying those initial learnings and creating new learnings to give a new understanding.

1st Position or perspective

Associated. This means to see and assess the situation through your own eyes and senses. This is a very insular process and you need to imagine as if you are there. There is a linguistic pattern in NLP and we say, “see what you’d see, feel what you’d feel, hear what you’d here and notice those feeling inside….. what are you saying to yourself”? This is a great way to get your own fully rounded perspective firstly.

2nd Position or perspective

“I wish you could walk a day in my shoes?” This is the process and step where you will Imagine what it is like to be the other person. Really begin to imagine what it’s like for them. Almost as if you are looking back at you listening to what’s been said and how you are acting, How are you coming across to them? An interesting angle and easy for the self-critical, but try to be a little neutral and just understand more, now you have the opportunity too.

3rd Position or perspective

Ever noticed when the person is standing at the sideline of a discussion they step in after a few minutes of back and forth and are usually able to get a new and different perspective on the situation. One that perhaps neither of you had thought of as a solution or desired outcome. This third position is about detachment and really allows for a bird’s eye view of the situation. From this position, you can watch body language, posture and perhaps take the view of both and combine to make a new level of understanding. Its great to consider how differently the situation would pan out if you take on board this view. The 2nd Round Repeat the above steps again! “Mike, I’ve already done them why again?” This time, you’ll notice each position feels completely different. If you think about it. It’s impossible to get the exact response as you now have a brand new set of understandings, viewpoint, and knowledge. As always practice, practice and practice some more…… It makes permanent, and it will allow you to be unconsciously competent at running this process. It very possible, with practice, that you are able to do this on the fly. Can you imagine how effective you’d be at understanding a situation or event if this were automatic?

Once you have gone through this process, repeat position 1 with that new perspective and see how differently you fell and understand that event.

When working through the perceptual positions model is good practice to set out an area to give you spatial anchors.  this simply means that while you’re in position one as you, talking about the event. You’re in a specific place within the room. As you shift position to, you will move to another desired space where the other person would be. That’s when you step into their shoes as then and act “as if”.

Repeat this again for the observer position. Where does it feel most comfortable for the observer to be noticing the situation? This is the fly on the wall or the authority figure or observer.

Some Considerations

  • Where are you starting from?  Use a SUDS scale to understand where a person is now regarding the situation.
  • Break states when switching between positions.  Breaking states can allow a person to step out of emotions and feelings attached to a certain position, this allows them to get really associated into the new position.
  • As the practitioner, guiding someone through this process. Make sure you use the correct language to keep the client or person you’re working within the appropriate position. Talk to them as if they are that person in that position.
  • As with all of NLP, make sure you’re in a position where you can calibrate the persons’ physiology. This can help guide your communication based on what they are experiencing in that moment.  be mindful of your position as do not intrude into the perceptual space that the client is working within.
  •  position one is the most important, as it’s the position of the client. The perceptual position process always starts and finishes in position one. You can future pace here and ask “notice how things have changed now you have that perception.”
  • This is the client process, so simply be there to help them understand it. It’s not for you to rationalise all make sense of it for them.
  • When working with a client, have them we grade how they feel about the experience now. Typically you will find an improvement. If no improvement. You can simply ask what needs to happen to you to feel better about this?


Getting perspective yourself

Like most NLP tools, you can use this perceptual position methodology on yourself. Just use the spatial anchoring to set different positions of the people to whom this relates. If you have a current issue with one of your work colleagues or bosses you could:

  • Use your own work chair to act in the first position
  • Bring in another chair or stand in a position where this person could or may have already been. It helps if you can associate that person being in that place.
  • The third position can simply be a fly on the wall, or it could be the CEO or even a friend, family member or loved one.