Understanding others through perceptual positions:
Perceptual positioning was advocated by John Grindler and Judith DeLozier who developed it as an exercise from work by Gregory Bateson. It is based on the premise that to understand a situation fully you need to take different perspectives.
This process allows you to stand up for yourself and understand your own perspective, as well as giving insight into how to influence others. Understanding what is driving behaviours is a key part of developing greater emotional intelligence. It will give you a greater understanding and choice about how to deal with difficult situations and allow you to stand back and think objectively about how to do things differently,
Perceptual positionscan be used to prepare for difficult conversations and anticipate what the other person needs to hear in order to give commitment. It also facilitates understanding of what needs to change after analysing a situation, so it can be used to overcome problems and blocks. There is no ‘right’ perspective in any situation.
First position:is your own reality, your own view of any situation. You need to know yourself and your values to be an effective role model and influence others by example.
Second position: is making the creative leap of your imagination to understand the world from another person’s perspective, to think in the way they think. Second position is the basis of empathy and rapport. It gives us the ability to appreciate other people’s feelings. Emotional second position is understanding the other person’s emotions. Intellectual second position is the ability to understand how the other person thinks, the kind of ideas they have and the sort of opinions and outcomes they hold.
Third position: is a step outside your view and the other person’s view to a detached perspective. There you can see the relationship between the two view points.
When to use them:
1stpositionis a good one to adopt when you want to stand up for yourself, see things from your perspective, hear things for your self, get in touch with your own feelings, or when initially setting outcomes for yourself.
2ndpositionis a good one to adopt when you can’t understand another person’s behaviour. It is a way of getting behind their behaviour and into their experience and feelings. It will give you a greater choice about how to deal with the situation taking into account how they are affected by it.
3rdpositioncan be valuable when you want to stand back, take stock, and think objectively about a situation. It can be particularly valuable when you don’t want the emotions attached to either being in or thinking about a situation.
A Perceptual Positions Exercise
This is a powerful technique for gaining valuable information that will help you make changes in relationships or handle difficult conversations. You will get most from it if you can truly let go of your own feelings and judgments about the other person and see through their eyes. Remember that the only person you can change is yourself and so this exercise is designed to give you new insights into how you could act differently to get the result that is important to you.
Identify someone in a specific situation who you would like to communicate more successfully with. Be clear on specifically what you want from the communication
1stPosition: Adopt the body posture and state you have with the other person in this situation; experience what you see, hear and feel when you are in the situation with them as if you were there now.
What do you think of the person in front of you?
How do they make you feel? How are you reacting to them? How are they treating you?
What do you believe about the situation and about them? What is important to you as you sit in the situation?
What are you thinking about? What do you really want to say?
Are you making them aware of how you feel through your tone of voice and body language?
Now move and shake off the thoughts and feelings of being you.
2ndPosition: Now ‘step into the shoes’ of the other person. You are “them”. Adopt the body posture they would have with you in this situation and experience what they see, hear and feel when they are with are in the situation. (Leave your own beliefs and feelings about them behind and really get under their skin!)
How does it feel to be them? What do they believe about the situation?
What is most important to them? How do they feel? What do they want?
How much do you understand about them?
Now shake off all their feelings and thoughts.
3rdPosition: Now move to a place where you can look at both ‘sides’ and become someone who is an observer watching “those two people”.
What do you see them doing? What kind of things are they saying to each other?
What sort of messages are they sending to each other beyond their words?
What insights do you get about the situation?
Having seen the situation as an observer, is there any advice that you would like to give “you” over there?
What could be done to resolve the situation?
Now test some changes
1stPosition– Look at the other person in a new way and experiment with speaking to them and acting differently.
2ndPosition– How does this person feel different now how they are being communicated to has changed?
(If you like, you could go back to any position to get more information.)