NLP Perceptual Positions
Human beings look at any experience using three primary ways. By understanding these ways of our behavior, we can learn how to control our state of mind and enhance our communication. In Neuro-linguistic Programming these ways are referred to as the first, second and third perceptual positions. However, two more perceptual positions known as fourth and fifth perceptual position can also be identified.
The first Neuro-linguistic perceptual position is a total self-reference, and operates from the self or from ones own eyes. The association is from ones own body and you are living in the first position. In this position, you are looking at the world and at any experience from your personal point of view. In the first perceptual position, no other person’s point of view or position is taken into account. You merely translate the experience or communication to your needs or opinion. This can be done by undergoing Neuro-linguistic training.
The second Neuro-linguistic perceptual position is all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Here you consider how someone else will interpret a communication or an experience. It forms a total other’s reference, and operates from the eyes of another person. You consider the look, sound and feel of an experience for somebody else, as you are experiencing the event from his or her eyes. You also look at yourself from another person’s eyes.
This perceptual position enhances your ability to empathize. It gives you the ability to see another person’s logic especially when you are in an argument. With the added flexibility, you can resolve conflicts much better and appreciate the feelings of the other person. You can also get some insight into your behavioral characteristics, and what someone else thinks about you. You can go to the second perceptual position after building an initial rapport, and then watch how it deepens with this position. The second perceptual position is an important model for strengthening rapport. It can be achieved using Neuro-linguistic training.
The third Neuro-linguistic perceptual position is a complete dissociation from the entire conversation or experience. You are an external viewer, and assume any other position with total detachment from the event. You become an independent observer and this helps to form an objective view on the event. Here you are looking at the conversation or event as if it is not at all related to you. You operate as an uninvolved bystander. Here you should imagine yourself to be out from your body or that of the other person involved and stand on the side looking at yourself and the second person involved. You have just entered the conversation and do not carry any preconceived opinions.
The Fourth Neuro-linguistic Perceptual Position
The fourth Neuro-linguistic perceptual position is a recent addition to Neuro-linguistic Programming literature and is specified by Dilts in 1997 in his Leadership skills manual. The fourth perceptual position is the viewpoint from the perspective of the system as a whole. The fourth perceptual position is defined as a “We” by associating yourself with the whole system. In order to take the fourth perceptual position, step aside and take on the perspective of the whole arrangement by considering the best interest of the unit as a single entity. Here your aim is to contribute to this single unit, by considering “our” common goals. This can be achieved using Neuro-linguistic training.
The fifth Neuro-linguistic perceptual position was developed by Atkinson in 1997, in his unpublished manuscript named Five Central Ideas. He suggests that the fifth perceptual position is the universal perceptual position. Here you need to take multiple perceptual positions and switch rapidly between each perceptual position. The universal quantifiers applicable are “all” and “always”. This is the largest and widest perspective of all perceptual positions. By assuming this particular Meta position, you can take any perceptual position and then change between them. This helps to increase the flexibility of your consciousness, because you do not stay in any one position for a long time.
You can learn to switch between each position and view the progress of things over time using Neuro-linguistic training. Every Neuro-linguistic Programming perceptual position is equally important, and it is vital to keep moving at ones own will between each perceptual position. Staying at any one position for a longer time can have disastrous results.
Avoid staying in one Perceptual Position
Why You Must Avoid Staying in any One Position
For example, a person stuck in the first perceptual position becomes an egoist. He is always concerned about himself and has little or no regard for anyone else’s opinion.
A person taking the second perceptual position becomes too dependent on other’s viewpoints. He assumes the role of a perpetual caretaker or a rescuer. He is always influenced by other people’s opinions, and is unable to take a decision on his own. The second position is therefore a codependency position. We often are stuck in this position when we constantly try to please others instead of doing things the way we want.
A person remaining in the third position for too long will become cold and detached. He will not feel anything and will be known as cold hearted. The third perceptual position dwellers usually become the loners or strangers of the world. Some of them become great philosophers or thinkers as they start looking at everything more objectively, as per Neuro-linguistic training.
Most people however keep moving from one position to the other, either consciously or unconsciously. It helps us to obtain and act with wisdom and respond in an appropriate manner. If you keep moving across all the perceptual positions, you can become a rich and understanding person, and you can control your actions and your conversations more effectively as per Neuro-linguistic courses.
However, sometimes we might not be able to perceive things from the perceptual positions due to out-of-alignment between each position. That is, we might have mixed perceptions, and different perceptual positions conflicting with each other. By aligning perceptual positions in our system, we can achieve personal power and inner congruence. We can resolve any internal conflicts and achieve internal perceptual position alignment as per Neuro-linguistic courses.
We can use the triple description pattern when there is an incomplete perspective or awareness of a given situation.
The first step is to identify the target problem, and describe where you feel stuck in the given situation. This is where you need to achieve congruence and alignment.
The next step is to identify the visual, auditory and kinesthetic factors of each perceptual position. The visual element details how each part or person sees the situation or the problem. Here you will identify the visual difference as seen by each perceptual position. Once you identify the visual difference, try to seek the auditory variation. Find out what words or sounds are heard in each perceptual position. Note the tone of voice used by the first and second perceptual positions. Note which pronouns are used and identify any judgmental tone. Observe the conversation from the third perceptual position and make a note of the vocal variations. Finally monitor the kinesthetic aspect of the perceptual positions. Identify what types of emotions are experienced in each part of the body for all perceptual positions. Note the feelings in all the situations, and identify any neutral emotions.
According to Neuro-linguistic courses, the next step is to realign all perceptual positions in all the representation systems. Take the third perceptual position, and go through all the VAK elements. Communicate any information seen by the observer position to the first perceptual position. Move on to the audio element once the self and the other view the situation in the same manner. For the audio element, try to see if the self and observer can agree on the same pronouns being used and the same tone of voice. Kinesthetically, try to align the feelings of the self and the observer.
The next step is to concentrate on the self, and align all the VAK perceptual positions in terms of self. That is the self should be able to see, hear and feel from its own eyes, vocal chords or body parts. All the feelings should come from inside the self.
According to Neuro-linguistic courses, the next step is to repeat the alignment for the second perceptual position. Adjust the Neuro-linguistic Programming perceptions so that they align with the self. Try to move the location of the other person to that of self, so that self can see, hear and feel from the perspective of the other. Integrate all the feelings so that the self is more resourceful and flexible.
Once all these realignments steps are taken, check whether all the parts feel in congruence with each other. According to Neuro-linguistic courses, once all parts are in harmony, you can try to adopt new behaviors and feelings so that the self is more enriched and flexible.
By adopting the five perceptual positions, you can enhance your feeling and thinking potential. Your perspective will be enriched and you can gain more insight on problem situations. These Neuro-linguistic Programming techniques can be applied to mediation, conflict resolution, and personal flexibility and for influencing others.