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When we feel confused and ‘stuck’ in our lives, it is often because we are only considering our situation from our own perspective. Being able to step into different perspectives and ‘viewpoints’ allows us to gather more information about our situation and therefore access a greater potential for options, flexibility and influence.
Extending the concept of dissociation, we can alter our client’s state further by deliberately coaching them to ‘step out’ of themselves and take up a different position. NLP supplies three of these perspectives, referred to as triple perspective. These ideas, also known as positions, were first put forward by Gregory Bateson (1972).
1st Position is our own viewpoint, our own perspective of the situation. Personal mastery in physical performance comes from this strong 1st position and can be coached through associative language covered in lesson 3.
2nd Position is making a creative leap of imagination to understand the world from another person’s perspective. To think in the way that they think and get a sense of what they see, hear, feel, believe and value. Second positioning is the basis of empathy and building rapport; it gives us the ability to appreciate other people’s thoughts and feelings. It is an essential position to understand and to gain a sense of other people’s mental maps and is essential for coaching with NLP.
3rd Position is a step outside our viewpoint and the other person’s viewpoint, to a detached perspective. Here we can observe the relationship between the two viewpoints. 3rd position is sometimes referred to as a Meta position. Taking an overview or ‘fly on the wall’ perspective.
New information can be gathered from visiting each of these three positions. It is important to ‘break state’ as we encourage a step from one position to another. This exercise can be performed using an exercise circuit with a client who has a good competence level in terms of technique and balance. Each position will represent one resistance or cardio exercise and questions can be asked as each set is performed.
Degrees of Second Position & Empathy
An effective coach will shift back and forth from 1st and 2nd position whilst in the process of working with a client. This allows us to appreciate our client’s viewpoint, whilst keeping our own perspective to steer the process towards an agreed outcome.
It is important that we do not confuse our own thoughts, beliefs and other components of our mental map with that of our clients. We need to have equal awareness of both. There will be similarities and
differences. WE DO NEED TO UNDERSTAND OUR CLIENTS BUT WE DO NOT HAVE TO AGREE WITH THEM.
2nd position involves being associated into another person’s beliefs, values, points of view and seeing the world from their eyes. This means that we have to dissociate from our own mental map to some degree.
If we say to a client “IF I WERE YOU, I WOULD…” then we have not 2nd positioned them at all. We are speaking from our own perspective and this is merely suggesting or offering advice, which is very different from coaching. Coaching assumes that the solutions and possibilities are within the client and we ask questions to help them to discover their own options.
If we are unable to take 2nd position, we can appear un-empathetic, selfish and lacking in compassion. However, it is also important that after taking second position fully, we are able to return to our own 1st position. If we remain in 2nd position we can become over empathetic and loose our objectivity. Neither way is useful, we must be flexible in taking 1st and 2nd position throughout the whole process of coaching.
2nd positioning is essential in many areas of life. Successful business people often talk about being able to ‘put themselves into the heads of their customers’. Successful teachers and trainers will think from ‘the perspective of their students’ or awarding bodies. Successful coaches are able to shift from their own perspective to that of their clients intermittently. Many NLP Coaches will 2nd position their clients at different levels of thinking. These levels are otherwise known as Neurological levels, devised by Robert Dilts (1990).
Neurological Levels is a model adapted from Logical Levels Gregory Bateson (1972). Robert Dilts has simplified Bateson’s theories around the ‘levels’ of thinking that affect our behaviour.
Dilt’s model sets out six levels of cognitive processing (thinking).
The model assumes that if we want to change something on one level then we need to address change at the levels above. For instance, if someone wanted to stop smoking, a behaviour, then they would likely need to change their beliefs in their capability to stop smoking and would also need to change their identity from that of a smoker to a non-smoker. It is only a change in this level of thinking that would promote lasting change.
Simply removing themselves from a smoking environment may not be enough to influence lasting change, although is would support the outcome.
As we move up each level, we are addressing a ‘deeper’ level of thinking and neurological processing and therefore a deeper commitment to change.
The best way to utilise this model is to 2nd position our clients and work out at what level change needs to take place. If someone wants to lose weight, they need to change their behaviours (eating, drinking, exercising). Although the environment that supports them is important to coach, it is the levels above that are likely to promote a deeper commitment to change. As and example, they would need to:
Believe that they were capable of eating the correct amounts and types of foods to lose weight. (Belief in Capability)
Believe that they are capable of sustaining this behaviour until they reached their desired outcome. (Belief in Capability)
Believe that they can exercise and perhaps enjoy exercising. (Belief in Capability)
Believe that they are or can be a ‘slim person’ and/or an ‘exerciser’. (Identity)
Value their health, appearance or quality of life to fuel to desire for change (Values)
Know that their behaviours have an impact on others or connect them to others (Purpose/Mission)
With weight loss as the example, may people will have tried and failed on many diets over many years. This will have reduced their belief in their ability to succeed in the future. This means that they will have a low self-efficacy, Albert Bandura (1925). In other words, a feeling of a lack in self- control.
In order to overcome this we can coach thinking through the different Neurological levels. Use the following a script with a client. Again, each space can be used as an exercise circuit station.
Working with Neurological Levels
Identify what needs to change, improve or develop. (Outcome)
Mark out six spaces on the floor to represent each neurological level. Alternatively set out six chairs or a six-station exercise circuit.
Explore where the change really needs to take place as each space is entered. Listen to the statements and which words are emphasised. If it is a behavioural problem then enquire, whatare their beliefs about their capability or what kind of person do they think they are? If it is an identity problem then who else and what else will their actions or decisions affect ifthey are to change? Direct them to each space for questioning, starting with the environment and working upwards.
Bring the levels back in alignment with each other by asking the types of questions laid in the table below.
We hold beliefs about who we are and what we are capable of so these levels are closely interconnected. To change our effectiveness at one level, we need to change our thinking at the level(s) above. When we have all the levels aligned and in agreement, then we are more likely to make consistent and lasting change. Using the example of weight loss, below are some more detailed questions you can ask on each space (level).
QUESTION TO ASK AT EACH LEVEL
Environment – Where, when and in what situations do you eat well and exercise?
Behaviour – What do you choose to eat and what kind of exercise do you do?
Capability – When you eat well and exercise, how do you do that? What specifically are you paying attention to when you choose to behave in this way?, How do you make those excellent choices?, How do you organise yourself to do that?
Beliefs and Values – What’s important to you about being slim and fit? What’s stopped you so far?
Identity – Who are you as that slim and fit person?
Mission/Purpose – As someone who is slimmer and fitter, who else and what else do you impact on? How does this affect others and what else and who else are you connected to by being slim and fit?
If the answer to any of the above questions is, “I don’t know” then there you have the problem and it is essential to work on the level above if change is to take place. You can ask:
If you were to guess, what would you say?
Is there anyone else who does know?
If you did know what would you say?
Be persistent with your questioning. The solutions are in there somewhere and the questions will find them eventually. Once you have an answer move on up to the next level until all levels have been explored.
It could be said that, when we are operating in a purposeful way, we are unstoppable. All of our neurological levels are aligned and we have discovered a meaning or mission to link to our actions.