I was reading about a case where the arbitration organisation, ACAS, were brought in to a dispute between two parties in an organisation, to help sort it out.
One statement in the article intrigued me.
ACAS stated that they were always trying to see the ‘third view’, that is, to look beyond the positions that each party were taking and identify another view that would deal with both party’s interests and come to a better conclusion than a compromise position between the two.
This perspective-shifting exercise can help us in business, too, especially when there is no way you are going to get a compromise in a conflict situation. Taking multiple perspectives will help you achieve a different ending, one that will help you gain benefits all round.
Taking an idea from NLP helps us to do this effortlessly and with great power. It’s called ‘Perceptual Positioning’.
Perceptual Positions does not look at two but actually three different perspectives and it is otherwise known as a triple description.
The principle is; do not evaluate, do not judge a person or a situation until we have gained knowledge through multiple perspectives.
Why should we gain other perspectives on things? Well, we all have our own way of viewing the world. People interpret events differently, which is why they end up with different models of the world.
Perceptual positions allows us to take three perspective on a situation. It is a way of seeing not just another person’s point of view but also a detached point of view. Looking from a neutral standpoint objectively at the situation to gain further viewpoints, allowing us to be more flexible, more creative in our behaviour in that particular situation.
Position 1 is seeing things from our own perspective, looking through our own eyes as we do in any communication, being ourselves.
Position 2 is looking at the situation from another persons perspective, seeing things from their point of view, as if we are them, describing the events from their world, entering their model of the world. Tune into the other persons thinking, tune into their feelings.
Position 3 is a neutral point of view, looking at the situation as a whole. We can ask ourselves, ‘What can we learn from this situation looking at it from afar, from an interested observers point of view? What can we learn that will help us understand this situation better?’
Position 3 allows us to find a sense of detachment. Position 3 has no feelings, it allows logic to rule.
Thinking about practical applications. Can you think of someone that you are having an issue with at the moment? Or in the past maybe you had an issue with someone that was left unresolved?
Whilst the issue or problem remains unresolved, you are part of the problem between you and the other person. It is only by taking the third position that you can lift yourself out of the problem loop.
Think about what you do when you are struggling to resolve any problem. Do you ever ask for advice, maybe from a friend? That is seeking a different perspective, a third position.
An arbitrator is in the third position, just like ACAS are. When you seek that new position, you find yourself adapting to the world differently, and seeing it all differently.
There’s always something new to seek and discover. Taking a different perspective may help you achieve those insights.
Head of Training
Originally published: 3 October, 2012
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