Perceptual Positions

In this video, Michael introduces Perceptual Positions.

Perceptual positions is a form of NLP modelling that allows us to step into somebody else’s shoes, and see what they see,  hear what they hear, and feel what they feel.

Perceptual positions help us get a much better impression of the client’s ‘reality’.

This is because when we imagine we’re sitting or standing as someone else, in their posture, speaking with their voice, we pick up a lot of information about what they’re thinking and how they are feeling. The scientific explanation for this is that adopting the other person’s positions triggers our mirror neurons, which enable us to get a far better understanding of others than would otherwise be the case.

In NLP, this process makes it possible for us to improve our interpersonal results by seeing (and hearing and feeling) things from someone else’s perspective.

The five perceptual positions.

There are five positions that we can adopt to fully understand another’s point of view. These positions fall under different types :

  • 1st position is where we are associated, and we see things from our own point of view.
  • 2nd position is where we dissociate from ourselves and image we’re in someone else’s body. We see things from their point of view.
  • 3rd position is where we’re an independent observer and can watch the interaction between positions 1 and 2. We see things from an outside point of view.

There are also a 4th and a 5th perceptual positions, which I only use very occasionally.

  • 4th position is observing the 3rd position relates to the people it’s observing.
  • 5th position is where you observe how you relate to yourself as an observer.

Suggested perceptual positions exercise.

Let’s say that you have an important meeting coming up with a client or stakeholder :

  1. Imagine yourself in 1st position. Imagine a 30 second movie of the meeting from your perspective, now describe the meeting in one word.
  2. Imagine yourself as the client in the 2nd position, then replay the movie. In one word, describe the meeting from the client’s perspective.
  3. Imaging you’re an independent (invisible) observer in 3rd position, and now replay the movie. Are the participants showing the same or different behaviours? How is each affecting the atmosphere of the meeting
    • (For example, are they both being aggressive, friendly, respectful etc or is one being friendly and the other unfriendly, or is one being aggressive and the other passive?)
  4. Then, go back to to the 2nd position and play the movie again from your client’s perspective. Has anything changed?
  5. Finally, think about what you could do to improve the meeting, then play the movie in 1st position again, but incorporating your improvements. Now what’s changed?

Most of my clients are surprised by how much they learn about their own clients – and themselves! – from this exercise. Consequently, the additional information helps them to improve the relationship.


In the next section we consider senses and submodalities. How we connect to our inner and outer worlds.


KEY NLP Techniques Section Index

NLP Techniques 1: Introduction
NLP Techniques 2: Beliefs
NLP Techniques 3: Values
NLP Techniques 4: Perceptual positions
NLP Techniques 5: Senses and Sub-modalities
NLP Techniques 6: Strategies
NLP Techniques 7: Profiles
NLP techniques 8: Time and timeline
NLP Techniques 9: Hypnosis and meditation
NLP Techniques 10: Storytelling
NLP Techniques 11: Modelling
NLP Techniques 12: Fast phobia cure
NLP Techniques 13. Progressive dissociation
NLP Techniques 14. Six step re-framing
NLP Techniques 15. Swish
NLP Techniques 16. Visual Squash
NLP Techniques 17. Summary


NLP Technique | Perceptual Positions

NLP Technique | Perceptual Positions