Managing CONFLICT through Perceptual Positioning

As humans, when things make sense to us from one point of view, we continue to assume that there is nothing left to know and we sometimes lose the ability to view things from different perspectives... 

I encourage you to open your heart and come from a place of abundance; allowing yourself to accept the differences from a standpoint of 'unconditional acceptance'.

Have you ever had the experience of a family member, a friend or another person being unable to see things from your point of view? Why what you’re saying doesn’t seem to be getting through to him or her?

Have you ever found yourself amazed by someone’s irrational response to a situation and wondered what was happening in their head? It is as if they have clinched onto their own model of reality that it’s impossible for them to contemplate on your perspective.

Have you ever been in a situation where someone told you something and you jumped right on and agreed or adopted their point of view without further questioning and vice versa?

Well, in certain contexts, we all have such responses at times because we are so immersed in our own model of reality (our own beliefs), we react rather emotionally instead of response mindfully. The benefit of being able to not only understand other people's point of view and to be able to think in a multi-perspective way is that it can;

1) Improve your communication through improving your understanding of others.

2) Enable you to think more creatively and flexibly through being more receptive to others.

3) Provide you an opportunity to stand back and consider issues objectively.

4) Give you a better understanding on the impact of your verbal and non-verbal behaviour on others – and the impact of their behaviour on you.

5) Create empathy for others and be able to manage conflict.

What is Perceptual Positions?

The ability to see things from the point of view of another person is a key skill in understanding people and it is important to communication processes in any given relationships. It is a skill of adopting more points of view than your own in a more organized way.

A perceptual position is where we place ourselves in relation to a situation. It is what we rely upon and sometimes hold on to when our position is challenged. These positions are based on assumptions that we have come to believe as true. In many cases we do not or have not thought to question them. In so doing, they unconsciously affect each new situation that we come upon.

When this happens, and we are so sure that our way is the only way, and that we are so sure of what we believe as true; our modus operandi is to convince others that we are right. Other views create conflict and block our unconditional acceptance.

So, how does this happen?

Human beings are innately ego-centric. The position of ‘self’ and ‘self-centredness’ is wired in such a way we develop our perceptions about ourselves and about others. This ‘ego-centricity’ is wired from a primitive response as a survival mechanism to staying alive.

In this mindful approach that we are going to discuss here allow ourselves to open to hearing; to deeply listen without judgement to another perceptual position. There are always different perspectives. ‘Perspective’ determines ‘Perception’. ‘Perception’ is how we receive information through our senses while ‘Perspective’ is directional; it is where we stand in relation to a situation. By changing our perspective, we alter our perception of a situation.

There are basically 3 Perceptual Positions:

1. First Perceptual Position (ie; your own perspective)

2. Second Perceptual Position (ie; another person’s perspective)

3. Third Perceptual Position (ie; the observer’s perspective)

First Position:

We all perceive the other people, places and things from what we call ‘first position’, the position of ourselves as individuals. What we see, hear, feel, think, believe and how we operate in with our environment and what our sensory organs receive and process. This is largely affected by our different levels of our automatic neurology functions which has little or no conscious inputs.

The downside of staying in this position is that it can eludes us. It can be massively limiting. It can distance us from other people by limiting us to believe what’s possible.

Second Position:

This is the Perceptual Position of an 'other'. We see, hear, feel, think, believe, operate, etc., in another person’s shoe. This position can be in direct communication with First Position.

The second perception position enables us to perceive a larger part of the whole and increases our awareness of the possibilities for new behaviours and solutions regardless of the perceived difficulties in which we find ourselves in. Here, we allow ourselves to take the other person’s views as well as our own.

Third Position:

The third perceptual position is where we put ourselves as a detached observer; the person who can perceive the whole situation or scenario; who can see, hear, feel, think, and operate on both individuals within the same interaction from a third perspective but it suspends any beliefs or assumption. It is a useful position for gathering information and noticing relationship dynamics going on between them.

Leveraging in this position allows us to make more sense into the suggestions about future possibilities and becoming more flexible in our choices.

What can you do to manage CONFLICT?

The practical way of approaching a ‘No, I do not accept that to be true’, is the standpoint of ‘I need more information’. Most of the time, it is our ignorance of different view-points that prevents us from seeking more information. The more information we have, the better informed our decisions are. And, the best way to find out more is by asking questions.


1) ‘Can you clarify what you mean?’

2) ‘My understanding is..., is that correct?’

3) ‘How does that work?’

4) ‘Why did you say that?’

Before we move on, it’s best we understand that there is no bad intention. Conflict is where we have little understanding of our self and of others. Therefore, unconditional acceptance is a mindful way to approach our interaction with mindful consideration, thus preserving a meaningful relationship; where we allow ourselves to be fully aware and conscious of our self, our words and our actions.

In every interaction there are four parts to consider:

“what I say – what I hear

what I mean – what I assume”

A mindful consideration is simply being mindful of ‘how and what we say may affects the other person's desire to impart information to further our understanding. We are always responsible for how we deliver a message, not how the receiver of the message chooses to respond. Being present and listen mindfully to what the other person says, we are less likely to misunderstand the conversation. This removes the tendency to formulate your next answer rather than concentrate on what is said and therefore not respond appropriately.

Therefore, in an open communication, the same scene or interaction is experienced differently by all those involved. Person (A) may see, hear, feel, think, believe and operate in different ways than Person (B). Here’s an illustration of perspective:

A tiger who grew up and lives in a zoo will only has his reality in the zoo, he has never ventured outside of the zoo and therefore his entire world is the zoo. Whereas a tiger who lives in the wild has his entire reality in the wild and nothing else. While, another tiger has travelled from the wild to the zoo and experienced the wild, the people and the cities; his whole world is different.

A tiger who grew up and lives in a zoo will only has his reality in the zoo, he has never ventured outside of the zoo and therefore his entire world is the zoo. Whereas a tiger who lives in the wild has his entire reality in the wild and nothing else. While, another tiger has travelled from the wild to the zoo and experienced the wild, the people and the cities; his whole world is different.

It is beneficial to be aware of the different perspectives as it can lead to realization that ‘your’ world is not all that you perceived it to be.

Let us take a deeper look at the ‘Moron – Maniac’ Perspectives:


Car A is in front of you, the first in a line of traffic

Car B is you, next in line

Car C is behind you, last in the line of traffic

If Car A is slow, Car B (you) may consider Car A to be a ‘Moron’

If Car C is pushing you along, Car B (you) may consider Car C to be a ‘Maniac’

Let’s see in other’s perspectives;

From Car A's perspective, Car B (you) is the ‘Maniac’

From Car C's perspective, Car B (you) are the ‘Moron’

Which are you, a ‘Moron’ or a ‘Maniac’?


Take some time to complete the following exercise to better understand ‘Perceptual Positions’. Consider a situation involving someone who has caused you frustration or a conflict. Think of a recent interaction you have had in your life.

1. First Position

Noticing where you placed yourself in that picture and recall the information from your perspective. See the situation in your own perspective, experiencing the situation in your own eyes. Noticing your own thoughts and feelings. Allow yourself time to step into it and fully experience every thought and feeling from your own standpoint.

What do you see? What do you hear? Is it your own voice, your own self talk? What is this other person saying to you? How are you behaving and reacting? How are you feeling?

This will give you the information about the situation from your own perspective. Once you’ve gathered all the insights, step out of Position 1.

2. Second Position

Imagine you are this other person. Step into this other person’s shoes as if you are looking back at yourself and allow yourself to fully experience the situation completely from his/her perspective. Allow yourself to receive the information of what he/she might see, hear and feel.

Gather as much information as you can from this other person’s perspective, now step out of Position 2.

3. Third Position

This is where you gather information from the situation as an observer standpoint. Take a holistic look at the situation in this neutral position. Imaging looking at yourself and this other person, seeing the two of them connecting. Gather as much information as you can and describe what the situation is like as a third person. Pay particular attention to the body language, the sound of their voices and their feelings.

What does it look like when you consider things from this perspective? Now, consider what advice you wish to give ‘yourself’ about how you are connecting in this situation.

Notice that;

There may be more than two people in a conflicting situation in our day-to-day encounters. If so, allow yourself to move to the forth, or fifth positions; to the other person’s perspective in the very same situation. Repeat this until you have moved through every person’s perspective. Allow yourself to receive information that comes from a bird’s eye view.

Considering yourself in these other positions serves as an objective to reflect upon how the community (ie: family members, friends and/or other system that we operate in) will be impacted by the efforts of the two persons.

4. Reflecting Back

Close your eyes and take a deep breath; pay close attention to how your body feels at this moment. What emotions are you feeling? What are you hearing? How have you impact the people around you? What did you know now that you didn’t know before? How has your perception of the situation changed?

Perceptual positions can creatively help us make more sense of our worlds and thus allowing us to become more empowered in our responses. The next time, before you react to someone, walk a mile in his shoes. In other words, you can't really understand someone until you've experienced what it's like to be in his/her situation from his perspective and position. Allow yourself time to quickly run through other’s perspective before responding is a more mindful approach to any relationships.

"Mindfulness isn't difficult. We just need to remember to do it." 

- Sharon Salzberg

In the end...It's all about you!

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References & Acknowledgements:

1. Perceptual Positions is an NLP based technique. A perspective shift methodology used to assess a person’s perceptual experience.

2. Kain Ramsay; founder of Achology, The Academy of Modern Applied Psychology and Strategic Life Coach, Scotland.

3. Linda Braden; for sharing of her perceptual positions case study and discussion, Auckland.

#conflict #gratitude #lifejourney #love #mindfulness #perceptualpositioning #relationships #unconditionalacceptance