Monday, December 13, 2010

Business Ethics Lecture Series - Part 26 - Perceptual Positions - A Tool for Ethical Analysis

PERCEPTUAL POSITIONS - A Concept from NLP for analysing Ethical Situations
Both in the personal and professional domains of your life you will encounter situations where you have adopt a "detached" stance and view the situation from multiple perspectives. 

You cannot solve a problem if you are a part of the problem, especially an ethical dilemma.

I am sure you have heard people saying, “If I were in your position” or “I can see your point of view”.
Have you ever put yourself in someone else’s shoes and had the experience of seeing the world or situation through the eyes of someone else…?
Have you ever tried to be an observer, detached and rational, looking at a situation as if you are not a part of it…?
Understanding and empathising with other points of view is the sine qua non of effective communication.
Also, it is said, that to solve a problem you should not be a part of the problem or inside the problem, but view the problem from a distance.
The NLP concept of Perceptual Positions can help you see a situation, a problem, from different points of view, in new ways, dispassionately from a “distance” with emotional detachment. 
Yes, the first step towards solving a problem is to properly analyse the problem, get to the root cause, and this technique of perceptual positions will help you do that and facilitate implementation of Soft System Methodology, especially in the formulation of the CATWOE and SIPOC models, which is the next step in solving the problem .
The Five Perceptual Positions


My Perspective or the Self Perspective
Seeing the situation or world completely through one’s own eyes. The first position enables you to be clear about what is important to you and discover your own personal values and beliefs. If one is in the first position one is very much within one’s own body and subject to strong emotional feelings. In NLP parlance the experience of being in the first position is called being “associated”. The disadvantages of being associated are that it may be difficult to critically review one’s own feelings and sometimes get swayed by emotions. The advantage of being associated is that one feels involved in the situation.


Your Perspective or the “Other” Perspective:  
Seeing the situation or world from through the eyes of and from the point of view of someone else. This perceptual position will help you get into the other person’s shoes and get a sense of their perspective and how they see the situation. In common parlance, this is called empathy.  In NLP parlance the experience of being in the second position is called being “dissociated” as here, in contrast to the first position one is able to be detached and able to observe oneself from a different perspective. The disadvantage of being in a dissociated state is that it can de-sensitize emotional responses and give the impression of being cold and distant.


The Observer Position
Looking at a situation as an external impartial observer dissociated and emotionally detached from the situation. This perceptual position will enable you to have a balanced approach, especially in emotionally charged situations. This entails both the individual and with whom she is interacting being observed at the same time from a distant position, outside all persons in the interaction - you may step back and “watch yourself watch yourself” – it is like seeing the situation on a movie screen.


The System Viewpoint or the Bird’s Eye View
Adopting a “systems approach” and looking at a situation from the perspective of the whole system, integrating perspectives of all stakeholders in the system using soft systems methodology in order to visualise the overall “system perspective”.


The Universal Perspective or the World View (Weltanschauung): 
Seeing the “whole picture” by analysing multiple perceptual positions. This is a most vital soft skill you must develop using various soft system models like CATWOE, Archetypes etc.

Close your eyes and think of various recent situations, especially situations of conflict, and the try to visualise the situations from different perceptual positions. 
You can consciously develop the ability to visualise and adopt different perceptual positions – not only will this help you improve your conflict management and decision making abilities but this will greatly enhance your communication skills.

You must be flexible and try to move between perceptual positions in a dynamic manner to achieve optimal results.

Spending too much time in the first perceptual position may lead you to be excessively emotional, self-centred and lacking in empathy while trying to always be in the second perceptual position may result in the “disease to please” leading to overemphasis in helping others to the detriment of your own interests and wellbeing.

Spending too much time in the third perceptual position may make you cold, hard-hearted, uncaring and insensitive towards others, so you must always try and develop the flexibility and agility to see different points of view from various perceptual positions.

A Triple Description entails considering the situation from the three basic perceptual positions – the first, the second and the third – and combining the experience. 
In the words of Robert Dilts: Excellence is a passionate commitment to something from the self position. Wisdom is the ability to consciously move back and forth between self, other, and observer positions.”

As you consciously practice the concept of perceptual positions you will develop the ability of creative visualisation to shift between perceptual positions at will and this will enhance your resourceful thinking process and enhance your ability to deal effectively and positively with a variety of people and situations.

On a lighter note, this concept will help you in personal life situations too, especially as you grow older. For those of you "old fogies" - you must have observed that, as you grow older, slowly but surely, you are made to feel redundant, your views are not sought and you are relegated to a position of an observer. Adopting perceptual positions will make you enjoy various situations. And this will certainly help you in ascertaining divergent ethical perspectives of various stakeholders for ethical analysis in an ethical situation.
Let me paraphrase one of my favourite quotes:

If you want to be seen, stand up.
If you want to be heard, speak up.
If you want to be appreciated, shut up ... and enjoy the situation using the technique of perceptual positions.

Try out this NLP concept of Perceptual Positions – you will be amazed by the results.
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.  
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU, The Lawrence School Lovedale, and Bishop's School Pune, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Manager and Trainer by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. His delicious foodie blogs have been compiled in a book "Appetite for a Stroll". Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts. 
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