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Perceptual positions is a neuro-linguistic programming and psychology term denoting that a complex system may look very different, and different information will be available, depending how one looks at it and one's point of view.

The idea of multiple perceptual positions in NLP was originally inspired by Gregory Bateson's double description who purported that double (or triple) descriptions are better than one. By deliberately training oneself in moving between perceptual positions one can develop new choice of responses. [1]

One basic example in NLP training involves considering an experience (typically a relationship) from the perspective of self, other and a detached third person in that situation. It could be something that has occurred already or something that will occur in the future. This type of exercise is useful in gathering information and often new choice in the world become available without a deliberate intervention. Because of the systemic nature of human's lives, often a person in a situation cannot see answers that a person standing outside can. So by moving between different perceptual positions, it is claimed that one can see a problem in new ways, or with less emotional attachment, and thus gather more information and develop new choices of response. For this reason it is accepted that in many situations, multiple descriptions of the situation are better than one.

The founder of NLP modeled this from Virginia Satir, the renowned family therapist, who at times went so far as to hold what became affectionately known as "parts parties" where she would guide a client to stand - literally - in everyone's shoes, until they understood better others position and feelings in the matter.


  • A strike looks very different from the viewpoint of a CEO, a worker, a customer and a supplier. But the problem is almost inevitably harder to solve if a person only appreciates their own viewpoint, and not those of others involved.

Notes and References

  1. (Whispering in the Wind, Bostic St Clair & Grinder, 2002 p.247)

See also

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