Perceptual Positions – Looking at Things from Different Viewpoints

If you look at something from a number of different viewpoints, you can gain extra information which gives you a basis for making wise choices. You can look at any interaction with another person from three different viewpoints:

  1. Your own viewpoint (sometimes known as ‘first position’). This is a good position to be in for being in touch with your feelings and standing up for your own interests.
  2. The other person’s viewpoint (‘second position’). If you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you are more likely to understand how they see you and what their feelings and motivations are. This is extra information that you can’t get if you stay stuck in your own viewpoint (of course, this ‘mind reading’ can only ever be speculation – you can’t know for sure what another person is thinking, although people often behave as if they can)
  3. A detached observer’s viewpoint (‘third position’). This is good for detaching yourself from the emotions of a situation and gaining a dispassionate overview. From this position you can observe the interactions between yourself and others as a whole system. You can see how you respond when they do something, and vice versa.


Disadvantages of being stuck in one position
Sometimes people habitually experience things from one position and miss out on the other information available.
If you always see things from your own point of view, you may appear selfish to others, and you won’t understand how other people feel, or anticipate the consequences of your actions.
If you see things only from the other person’s point of view, you become a ‘doormat’ because you neglect your own feelings and interests. Other people will treat you accordingly.
If you always take a detached overview, you will not be in touch with your own feelings and will have no understanding of others. You may appear ‘cold’ and lacking in humanity to other people.
Wisdom comes from having the flexibility to move through the different positions, to see a situation from all sides before coming back to yourself to decide what you want.

© 2010, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.

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