Respect other people’s views – the perceptual positions exercise

The NLP Meta Mirror, also known as Perceptual Positions, is a very effective exercise for gaining more flexibility and choice and recalibrating how we experience our relationships with others. When we change the way we look at things the things we look at change. It is also a great way to help us hear and respect other people when their views are very different to our own.

Robert Dilts came up with the concept of The Meta Mirror in 1988, an exercise designed to bring together a number of different perspectives.

The basis of the Meta Mirror is the idea that the ‘problem’ you face is more a refection of you, and how you relate to yourself, than about the other person. It’s a way of allowing you to step back and see a problem you are facing in a new light – hence the idea of the mirror.

The idea is that relationships are not external, they are internal. We don’t relate to another person, we actually relate to a construct or representation of that person in our mind. When the person is not with us, we still experience the relationship; we feel emotions about it; we can analyse it, and we can change it.

This exercise  is a useful one when trying to work with a difficult relationship, perhaps at work, with a partner, or a family member. Or simply respecting other people’s views that are different to our own.


The idea is there are three main positions: you could put chairs in each place.

1          Begin with position one: your point of view, and imagine you are seeing the other person at position two acting the way they would act if they were actually there in person. Ask yourself, ‘What am I experiencing, thinking and feeling as I look at this person?’

2          Now go to position two, making sure that you ‘shake off’ position one feelings before entering position two.

3          From position two, imagine that you are the other person and sit or stand as the other person would normally sit or stand. Look back at position one and ask yourself ‘What am I experiencing, seeing, thinking and feeling as I look at this person?’

4          Now go to position three, making sure that you ‘shake off’ position two feelings before entering position three. Stay in a dissociated mindset, that is detached from one’s emotional experience.

5          Now that you are outside the exchange, what do you notice? How do you respond to that ‘you’ there in the first position? What advice would you give to that ‘you’ there in the first position?

6          Now go to another place, one that is completely separate from the three positions and, in your mind, swap the versions of ‘you’ at positions one and three. In effect, you are injecting the impartial observer and new insights into the relationship, and removing the stuck aspects that were not working so well.

7          Now revisit position two and imagine you are the other person. Notice how the relationship seems different. What has changed?

8          Move to position one, your ‘home’ position, and notice what has changed.

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