Taking Perceptual Positions with NLP
Perceptual positions help you imagine what difficult situations look like when viewed with others’ eyes. The term refers to the ability to imagine what others perceive by imagining that you are that other person. In NLP this links with the assumption that ‘the map is not the territory’ and offers a way to enrich an individual’s map of the world.
First position is your natural perspective, where you’re fully aware of what you think and feel regardless of those around you. This is the place that clients find most familiar. They’ve come to coaching because they already have an awareness of their own perspective and the problems they face.
Second position is about imagining what it’s like to be another person. Some people are very good at considering others’ needs and concerns; for a more self-focused client, imagining second position is a completely alien notion.
Third position is an independent position where you act as a detached observer noticing what’s happening in the relationship between two other people. Good coaches naturally step into this impartial role. In coaching, encourage the client to take this position in order to gain an impartial insight into a situation, particularly to view a relationship the client has with another person.
You can introduce perceptual positions to clients by having them physically move to different chairs or places in a room as you describe and discuss the three positions, asking them to notice what they experience while standing or sitting in each position. The real learning comes by stepping out of first position to explore second and third positions and see what light it sheds on a situation.