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  • Writer's pictureCameron Kauffman

Enhancing Emotional Awareness

How understanding Perceptual Positions improves relationships

Emotional Awareness comes from developing the ability to shift through and experience the different positions of self, others and observers.

Why should you care about Perceptual Positions?

Understanding and using Perceptual Positions helps you build rapport and strong relationships by gaining clarity of how you think and feel and experiencing or imagining what others think and feel. If you look at something from a number of different viewpoints or positions, you can gain important information, which gives you a basis for making wise choices around your interactions and relationships with others.

What are the three Perceptual Positions?

1. First Position (Self)

2. Second Position (Friend, Family Member, Others)

3. Third Position (Observer)

You can look at any interaction with another person from these three different positions. When you are emotionally aware and healthy, you shift around between first, second, and third positions to obtain valuable relational information. Spending too much time or getting stuck in one position is not healthy and can be detrimental in maintaining strong relationships with others.

First Position (Self) is where you are most often comfortable. You are in your own body. It is your natural perspective. You see everything through your own eyes and you understand exactly how you feel. You know what you want or need. This is a good position for being in touch with your feelings and standing up for your own interests.

Second Position (Friend, Family Member. Other) is about imagining what it’s like to be another person. You understand how they feel. You imagine being them and understand their unique perspective. You may feel their pain and experience their joy. It’s a position of great empathy and understanding of others. 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.

Third Position (Observer) is an independent position where you act as a detached observer, noticing what’s happening in the relationship between two other people. Taking this position allows you to gain an impartial insight into a situation, particularly to view a relationship you have with another person. You see what’s going on, completely separate from yourself. From this position you can observe the interactions between yourself and others as a whole system. You can effectively determine what’s working and what changes might be helpful.

Shift Positions - Don't get Stuck

Sometimes people get stuck in one position and miss out on experiencing their relationships with others in the most meaningful and positive way. Don't get stuck. It is important to be aware of how other people may experience you when you become stuck in one position. Learning to move through these positions by practicing and then reflecting on your experience will enhance your emotional awareness and relationships.

Stuck in First Position - 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. When people get stuck in first position we describe them as narcissistic or immature.

Stuck in Second Position - If you see things only from the other person’s point of view, you become a ‘doormat’ and neglect your own feelings and interests. Other people may take advantage of you and treat you unfairly. When you stay in second position you tend to be overly involved, overly emotional and overly dependent. You may set your own needs aside unnecessarily.

Stuck in Third Position - If you always take a detached or unemotional position, you will not be in touch with your own feelings and will have no understanding of others. You may appear cold, uncaring or impersonal. If you get stuck in third position, people may feel like they can’t ever really connect with you on a heart centered level.

Learn to Shift - The ability to shift between these positions will have a direct impact on the level of trust and rapport in your relationships and effectiveness of your teams. Step into First Position to get clarity about how you feel. To understand or feel something from someone else’s point of view, shift into the empathic Second Position. To evaluate situations and solutions objectively and with impartiality, shift into Third Position.

#emotionalawareness #emotionalintelligence

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