Perceptual Positions – Perspective Matters

Let’s start with a story about those aha moments that can prompt you to see things differently. It’s less than 5 minutes, but if you’re feeling pressed for time today, the story below is totally optional. Enjoy!

It’s a fundamental truth, that what we see (and much of what we believe) is NOT REAL, but rather is made up (mostly unconsciously) based on pre-programmed cues, values, beliefs & expectations (part of your ‘meta programs’ that run without your conscious thought or awareness, constantly, in the background) and this is done existing neural pathways formed during your lifetime. As you’ve seen in this program, this process involves automatically and unconsciously deleting, distorting and generalising what we see, hear, feel (physically/kinesthetically and emotionally), smell and taste, to ‘make sense’ of it in real time…

It follows then, that what we believe, value and experience is as unique as we each are and that that can give rise to all sorts of different conflicts between and within people. In situations involving inter-personal conflict, its really useful to know HOW we can use this awareness to CHANGE our experience and developing awareness & mastery of different perspectives is a powerful skill in this context. So, let me introduce to the idea of perceptual positions. Let’s start with a really simple visual depiction of how perspective can radically change meaning…

So is it a 6 or a 9? If you are a manager, parent, mediator or leader its useful to be able to see both perspectives. It’s even more powerful to be able to then be able to help the other parties to do the same. Only once we can do that at some level, are we reading from the same page rather than talking at cross purposes!
In this example, we see the same issue, but now with letters rather than numbers. And, to add to the complexity here, the letters M and W in the English language also happen to be commonly associated with Men (M) and Women (W). This means that if the other person identifies with (or is identified as representing) a different group to yours, we are likely to assume all sorts of ‘negative intentions’ or ‘jaded/unhelpful beliefs’ might be driving their perspective. This is important to recognise… i.e. Any time we are dealing with a conflict we are dealing not only with what is happening then, but also with (often inaccurate) interpretations about ‘why’, and associated beliefs from other past situations our brain has coded as similar/relevant. No wonder then, as we try to make sense of our experience and how it differs to others, that we can find ourselves in dangerous and prickly territory. The awareness of how to control our unconscious and unhelpful assumptions/bias is therefore a really powerful and useful skill in many situations.

Learn to see the whole picture

Adjusting your perceptual position DURING an interaction with someone (especially a conflict-oriented or challenging conversation) will help you see/feel/hear radically differently. There are 5 perceptual positions – that is 4 more than you probably usually use currently! So, that means it’s a good chance to play and have fun getting more skilled and confident operating from these different positions.

Watch the video below, (then the example one below that if you like), and then have a go at applying these new and insightful positions to a challenging interaction you have on your mind.

Be curious about what you learn and what new awareness you have and notice how that can help you communicate and respond in a far more resourceful or useful way. Hey, it’s not every day you get to be God-like, now, is it? So don’t take this too seriously – instead PLAY! EXPLORE! And then share your new insights and/or wins from the flexibility you are creating.

Personally, I found this one WAY more powerful and transformational than I expected, for a really BIG conflict I had struggled with for years. So, take a look, and see what new things you discover as you do, and how that can transform the meaning and therefore experience you have from it.