There are three positions from which we can see the world around us.
Our whole life is basically made of our reactions to what’s happening around us. Therefore it’s fair to say that our reactions make up our whole life. But what creates our reactions? Beliefs about life? Oh yes. Behavioral strategies confirming those beliefs? Absolutely. And there’s something else NLP suggests you pay attention to, it’s called “perceptual positions”. What is it? Let’s dive in.
The world is nothing but the way we see it. Our dominant perceptual position defines a lot in our lives: quality and quantity of our problems, our relationships with people, how satisfied we are, our career choice and how successful we get in it. Being in one of those positions we see the world from that exact angle which, as you probably already know - is very limiting, since we only get one perspective by doing so.
NLP suggests that we can look at the world from 3 perceptual positions. And every one of them has its pros and cons depending on the context and the situation.
It’s fair to say that the ability to switch the positions depending on what’s more appropriate and useful at the moment is one of the most important skills in life. And for a good reason!
Important! Despite the fact that we all have a dominant position, it’s important to remember that nobody lives their whole life, meaning all its aspects, being only in one of the positions. Most often we combine them.
Now, let’s go!
1st perceptual position: “Me”
People with dominant 1st position are fully focused on themselves, their desires and opinion.
Those people are hard not to notice: they always know what they want and where they’re going in life. For them people are either tools helping them get what they want, or just obstacles on the way. Others don’t even register in their mind as independent beings, they are only seen through the filter of their opinion, beliefs and goals.
You probably met some of them: you can tell that they can’t wait for you to stop talking so that it’s their turn to say what’s on their mind.
People with a strong 1st position live mostly to satisfy their own needs and desires: they eat delicious food, sleep like babies, wear very comfortable clothes and do things only to pursue their own goals. They’re ruthless when it comes to following their dreams and don’t care much if it affects others in any negative way.
Oftentimes these are the people knocking you down while chasing their dreams not even noticing that.
Taken to the extreme 1st perceptual position will make you a notorious selfish sociopath, thinking only about yourself and not being open to receive any feedback from others and the Universe whatsoever. At the same time if this position is moderately present, you are an ambitious, goal-oriented person with a strong self-esteem, trusting your opinion and respecting your own boundaries.
Ability to access the “happy state”
Freedom from complexes
Selfishness and egomania
Extremities (including emotional),”all or nothing” mindset
Presumptuousness and often expressions of anger
“Non-ecological” behavior towards others
2nd perceptual position: “Others”
Second position is the approach of people “putting themselves in others’ shoes” and looking at the world through their eyes. As they say “if you want to catch a criminal, you have to think like a criminal”; if you truly want to understand the other person, you have to “get into their skin”, listen through their ears and judge from their perspective. That’s exactly what people with dominant 2nd position are so good at.
They would always first make sure that their partner, friend or coworker is comfortable. That’s their built-in thinking model based on automatic authority of others, elevated importance of their opinion, and, simply put, valuing others more than themselves.
That’s the person who won’t ask for their money back because they don’t want to upset the other person, they don’t want to be seen cheap like that and simply ruin relationship with anybody. Their compassion and empathy often put them in situations when they help others at their own cost.
Due to that empathy people with dominant 2nd position often get sick, easily picking up other people’s moods they feel compassionate about (that’s what “I feel you” truly means).
Possible scenario #1: as soon as these people face a problem in their life, they run away and focus on the lives of people around them - they get busy helping them and solving their problems instead of their own. The truth is - they’re not used to follow their desires so they’d much rather help someone else get what they want than work on their own goals.
Possible scenario #2: they may not follow through with a lot of plans and dreams because “What will others think?”, how will it reflect on my life, what will others say, and will they say anything at all etc. That significally slows them down, causes a big deal of frustration, anxiety and complexes.
However, 2nd position has its benefits as well! People with the dominant “others” position are talented at PR, marketology and any other customer service related profession. Due to their exceptional sense of trends and ability to predict what a customer really wants, they are the best there is at what they do. Any service related industry is where they can express their skills the best thanks to their compassion, empathy and ability to read others.
Getting along with almost everyone
Love and sympathy from others
Ability to feel the trends and read what others want
Vast map of reality due to their ability to look at things through different people’s eyes
Anxiously suspicious and quick to take offense
Often - “the victim” or “the rescuer” in the Karpman drama triangle
Living for others, forgetting about their own goals and dreams
Paralyzing fear to upset someone or fall short to their expectations
Picking up other people’s moods including negative ones
3rd perceptual position: “The Observer”
Unemotional camera, taking notes of everything happening in front of it.
A spectator, watching the show and judging it without “living” it.
3rd perceptual position - is always a position of spectator, not a participant. It’s a position of logics, numbers, graphs and systems. People like this are often called insensitive, detached and even robots.
Interestingly enough, people with 3rd dominant position are better at making money. They have a clear and logical vision without any emotional attachment, they can calculate all the pros and cons of deals, play other people’s emotions and manipulating them, predicting the whole scenario ahead of time. “Nothing personal, business is business” - that would be the slogan for people whose 3rd position takes the center stage.
Their self-esteem is pretty unshakeable and mood swings are almost non-existent because the only thing they take into their account is money.
Strong 3rd position is important for scientists, financial advisers, entrepreneurs, policemen and even more so-doctors. Just imagine a doctor in 2nd position..First of all, they wouldn’t be able to help many people because they would be too emotionally invested in every single one of their patients. And, secondly, they’d end up having to see their therapist way too often. In this case compassion won’t help the patients, but will definitely drive a doctor insane, seeing so many suffering people on a daily basis.
Mentally healthy, very even mood pattern
Highly productive and effective
Analytical way of thinking, helping achieve more in life
Emotionally unaccessible, insensitive to themselves and others
Inability to experience feelings available to others
As you can already see-there are no good or bad perceptual positions. There are adequate and inadequate ones. Absolute mastery is the skill to “turn on” the most effective one in any given situation.
To get what you want, set your boundaries and enjoying things life has to offer, the best one is the 1st position.
To understand others better, find a compromise, build trust and get people to like you better - step into the 2nd perceptual position.
When you need to analyze and estimate all the pros and cons of a situation and find the best solution-then 3rd position is the way to go.
The benefits of each position make up for their downsides as you can see. So my advice is not to get stuck in one of the positions, or else you’re going to face the same problems your whole life:)
What is your dominant position?
Can you use some of the benefits of the other two?