Perceptual Positions: all questions, examples and techniques
What are the perceptual positions in NLP? In this article, you will find the definition, questions, examples and techniques. The perceptual positions are a very useful tool for gaining new perspectives in all kinds of situations. Read further to find out more.
What do the perceptual positions mean?
The perceptual positions are a way of looking at a subject from multiple perspectives. There are three perceptual positions:
- Yourself: This is the first position (associated).
- The other: this is the second position (the empathy position for rapport, associated with the other).
- A neutral third position: this is the third position (this position is always dissociated).
Why are perceptual positions so important?
By changing perceptual positions, you show your flexibility (proactive behaviour) in the best possible way. You’ll be presented with another map of the world if, for example, you take on the position of a trapezium artist. Or the position of a fly on the wall.
By adopting different perspectives, you will gain more empathy (second position), clear factual feedback (third position), more information and even possibilities to reframe things. Moreover, by being able to perceive from multiple perspectives, we are so flexible that we even give ourselves optimal feedback.
The third observation position is useful, for example, in assessing a situation without judgement. If you were to look through a lens, what would you see? A frown! Some people attach an interpretation to it: one says: that person is sad. The other says: that person is angry. What is the only thing you know 100%? There is a frown!
Questions you can ask to adopt other perspectives (perceptual positions)
For each perceptual position you assume, you can use all the questions in this article to further discover the observation position in which you are standing in.
Questions for the first perceptual position:
- How do I perceive the world from my own perspective?
- What do I see, hear, feel and say from my own point of view?
- How did I react to it?
- What am I experiencing?
- What did I see, hear, feel, hear, smell?
- How is that for me?
- How do I experience that?
Questions for the second perceptual position:
- How do I perceive the world from another person’s perspective? From the other person’s filters?
- What do I see, hear, feel and say from the perspective of the other person?
- How do you think he felt? Why should that be?
- How does he experience that?
- What did he see, hear, feel, hear, smoke?
- How is that for him?
- How did he react to it?
- Could he have done it differently?
- Stand in his shoes.
- How did he react to it? What would have made him react in this way?
- Here the coach pretends to be talking to the second person while talking to the client: “That’s great for you. Could you do something about it?
Questions for the third perceptual position:
In the third position, you say what you see. You act as if you don’t understand anything or know any history about it. You know nothing about it and you just perceive it. You look at the matter from the perspective of a fly on the wall. You can see it all, and you don’t think anything of it.
- Summarise: we have just done A, B and C.
- What kind of differences do you notice?
- What do you take away with you from this?
- What advice would you give him/her (yourself)?
- What do you see?
- What do you hear?
- So do not say: what do you feel?
Are you not yet successful in adopting the second observation position?
If you find it challenging to feel like you are the other person, test the following:
- Use the ‘as if’ frame (pretending like you can do it anyway). Just like the child who put on the princess dress and suddenly a princess was standing there!
- Just look through her glasses. Only for being able to assume the other perspective.
If I assume the second position, am I not mind reading for the other person?
It’s good that you think of this rule: don’t mindread what the other person is thinking. It is certainly legitimate to use the second observation position, provided that you only use information that you have received or requested from the other party. In addition, when you have rapport with each other, you receive a great deal of information in terms of energy. Even if you only just know the other person (this is how family constellations work, for example).
The third observation position is very useful for feedback
Shifting into different perceptual positions on a regular basis is very important for yourself. The third position is particularly important. This way you can give others and yourself feedback. In that case, look at yourself and reflect on your effectiveness, whether you are performing a technique properly, the amount of rapport, the structure, the ecology, etc.
This is even a good habit to teach yourself: giving self-feedback using the third position. Give yourself powerful feedback by literally being in the third position and giving yourself sensory-specific feedback.
Exercise: Recognition of the perceptual positions in a story
A talks about an experience he/she had. B and C listen to the perceptual positions they can recognize in the story. Also, do this recognition exercise with stories of people on radio and TV and with people who have nothing to do with NLP.
Exercise: Utilizing the perceptual positions for a particular situation (Discovery)
Take a situation where you had an argument or disagreement with someone. It is time to look at this situation from a number of different perspectives!
- A tells about a situation in which communication with another person is difficult.
- B asks questions that ensure that A always starts to describe the situation from a different observation position.
- C discovers which questions B has asked to lead A to a different position. The effect of the questions will also be discussed. How can B improve his ability to guide him through the observation positions?
Variation: do the same, but with a different situation (this can be anything).
Technique: Assigning the perceptual positions to a situation (Formal exercise)
Take a situation where you had an argument or disagreement with someone. It is time to look at this situation from a number of angles!
- Anchor perceptual position 1, 2 and 3 in three places on the ground. Have each location be associated with the first, second or third position.
- Identify a situation where you want more choice.
- Experience position 1, 2 and 3 in that experience.
- Give yourself advice from position 3.
- Move through positions 1 and 2 with the advice of position 3.
Final tip: always use the perceptual positions to learn new things
Are you currently following an NLP training programme? Then the following is a valuable tip. With each exercise you do, you subsequently report what you observed via the third position (dissociated). Then you do this from the perspective of another person (second position) and your own perspective (first position). If necessary, you can also give feedback afterwards, which is an extension to the observation.
Bonus: Create an observation log of each exercise. It’s a great way to imprint the technique of perceptual positions and observing objectively.