Pearls of Wisdom resumes for 2015! P is for Perceptual Positions …step into my shoes

“The person with the most flexibility in thinking and behaviour has the most influence over any situation”

How often have you been in a situation and found yourself confused or frustrated at the response or behaviour of someone else?

How often have you asked yourself – “why have they acted in such a defensive/negative/destructive/inappropriate  way’”?

In situations where you are faced with confusion and frustration at someone else’s attitude, behaviour or actions, what can you do? Well, firstly you can have Curiosity, something I consider to be the foundation to all learning. You need to have the curiosity to find out the reasons behind someone eliciting a particular behaviour or responded in the way that they have. Because, without curiosity you can lose sight of what your original outcome for a situation is. Then you can put into practice the technique known as “perceptual positions”, which allows you to gain insight into a situation by looking at it and considering it from three different perspectives.

1.  First Position (your own) – “wearing your own shoes” and fully experiencing what is important to you. This is known as being “associated” into your experience.

2. Second Position (the other person’s) – by “wearing their shoes” and being fully associated with what is important to them.
3. Third Position (from the outside) – by taking a disassociated and analytical view of what is happening between 1 and 2.

By gaining this insight we give ourselves choices and flexibility about the actions we can take in order to support our outcomes.

Here is the Technique:-

1.   From first position and “in your own shoes” think about the situation from your point of view. Ask yourself: What is important to me? How does this affect me? What is my desired outcome from this situation? Take a mental note of these.
2.  From second position and stepping into “the other person’s shoes”, think about what is important to them. See, hear and feel the world from their position. Take on the other person’s physiology and think about their beliefs and values, what do you already know about this person that will help you understand it from their perspective?       This will allow you to become fully associated into their world.

3.   From third position and like “a fly on the wall”, you move to the position of an independent eye-witness. You observe and comment on the facts of the situation without feeling or emotion. You can therefore give yourself disassociated advice on what would be useful in order to improve the situation and gain a better understanding of what is going on.

A good way to work with this technique is to physically move between positions to experience the different perspectives.

Position two chairs – sit on one to experience first position then move to the other chair to experience second position. Stand back to experience third position from a distance.

Think about what happens when someone becomes “stuck” in any of the three positions too.

A person stuck in first position can become selfish and egotistical. In second position the person can be over-influenced and co-dependent on the views of those around them. In third position a person can become emotionally-detached and unfeeling.

With the flexibility to move (physically and in your mind and thinking) you will find this technique beneficial to increase your awareness during a given situation. And, of course, the person with the most flexibility in thinking and behaviour, has the most influence over any situation.


(this article first appeared in Executive Secretary Magazine July 2013)

This entry was posted by Lindsay Taylor on Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 at 2:20 pm and is filed under News.