Ever taken a moment to step back and think about how the position from which you are perceiving something is influencing your communication in that moment?

Well I invite you now to pause for a moment and explore a concept with me in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) called “Perceptual Positions”.

We usually just think that what we are seeing is what there is to see from our perspective. Yet in actual fact, our perspective can come from one of 5 different positions. Each mental position is just a different reference point, much like a different angle of a camera or a different radio station frequency. Each point comes with its own usefulness and drawbacks.

We unconsciously already use these different mental positions, but by knowing about them we can choose to use them to gain more understanding of a situation, and that often leads to new choices or options being created.

How different perspectives help improve communication

Looking at things from the “fifth” position

The Different Perspectives

The positions are best explained in the context of a conversation that you have had with another person:

First Position:

This is where you are in your shoes, looking out your eyes at the other person. You are experiencing being with this other person, and what you are feeling, seeing, thinking and hearing.

Second Position:

Now you step in the shoes of the other person, looking back at yourself through their eyes. Second position is about experiencing the conversation from the point of view of the other person- what they are seeing and hearing and experiencing as they look back at you.

Third Position:

This perspective is like being a fly on the wall or a neutral observer. From there you are gathering information about the interaction between the two people in the conversation- seeing yourself and the other person exchanging words, behaviours and emotions.

Fourth Position:

This position gets you to take a step back from the conversation between the two people, and see it from the context within which it is happening. It takes into consideration the system within which the interaction is occurring, like the family, business team or community, and brings in information from that system’s perspective.

Fifth Position:

When we take a view from way out in the universe, (all the way to be with God if that is your belief) and look back at the conversation way down on earth, we gain another perspective of that interaction.

Information leads to Understanding

From each position you gain very different bits of information. And with more information, comes more understanding. Taking any difficult situation through all 5 positions helps to get a more balanced appreciation of that situation.

When it comes to communication, it is often useful to note which position is your default, and likely to be impacting the results you are aiming to achieve.

For example, if you are trying to explain a concept from first position, and the person you are explaining to is not able to grasp the concept, by shifting your position to second, or third, you might gain information that will show you what is blocking the person from understanding.

Or if you are mostly in second position to others, it is more useful to step into first position when you need to clearly state your own opinion on a matter, set a boundary, or voice a need or request.


From having the flexibility to shift your perceptual position at will, you will be in a useful space of being able to gain more information about the complexity of a situation. It’s then up to you how you use that information to assist in creating clearer and more constructive communication.

And that is what is empowering – having information that leads to choice in any moment!

To you flexibly using all perspectives!

About the Author:

Telana Confidence Trainer | Inner Coaching | imageTelana is a dynamic, transformational Personal Coach and Blogger who specializes in communicating and relating.  She is fascinated by consciousness evolution and goes on adventures to push her boundaries and preconceptions.  She offers coaching and training programmes to help individuals develop their ability to express themselves and their potentials and improve their relationships, and is a host of an online TV show.

Image courtesy of pat138241 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net