Perceiving a Situation from a Different Model of the World by Taking Second Position

One simple but powerful form of reframing is to consider some situation, experience or judgment from a different Model of the World. From the NLP perspective, this is most easily and naturally done by putting yourself in another person's shoes — what is known as taking 'second position'.

Taking second position involves stepping into another person's point of view, or 'perceptual position', within a particular situation or interaction. Second position is one of the three fundamental Perceptual Positions defined by NLP. It involves shifting perspectives and viewing the situation as though you were another individual. From second position, you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell what the interaction is like from the other person's perspective; to "be in his or her skin," "walk a mile in his or her shoes," "sit on the other side of the desk," etc.

Thus, second position involves being associated in another person's point of view, beliefs and assumptions, and perceiving ideas and events from that person's model of the world. Being able to view a situation from another person's model of the world, frequently offers many new insights and understandings.

The Sleight of Mouth Pattern known as Model of the World, is drawn from this process. It involves being able to reframe a situation or generalization by being able to perceive and express a different mental map of the situation. A good example of the process of taking second position in order to get a different model of the world, and then putting it into words in order to widen other people's perspective is provided by criminal lawyer Tony Serra. In a 1998 interview in Speak magazine, Serra commented:

fWJhen you represent the criminal defendant. . . you become him, you feel like him, you walk in his shoes, and you see with his eyes and hear with his ears. You've got to know him completely to know that nature of his behavior. But you have 'the word.' That is, you can translate his feeling, his meaning and his intellect as components that are relevant to his behavior into legalese, into the words of the law, or into persuasive metaphors. You take the clay of a person's behavior and you embellish it, you make a piece of art. And that is the lawyer's creativity.

The Sleight of Mouth pattern of Model of the World is founded in the NLP presupposition that:

The map is not the territory. Every person has their own individual map of the world. There is no single correct map of the world. People make the best choices available to them given the possibilities and the capabilities that they perceive available to them from their model of the world. The 'wisest' and most 'compassionate' maps are those which make available the widest and richest number of choices, as opposed to being the most "real" or "accurate".

Identify a situation involving another person in which you were not able to perform as masterfully as you know you that you could have. What is the generalization or judgment that you have made about yourself or the other person? Enrich your perception of the situation and your generalization by considering them from at least three points of view or 'Models of the World'.

Step into the shoes of the other person. How would you perceive the situation if you were that person ?

Imagine you were an uninvolved observer looking at this situation. What would you notice, about the interaction from this perspective? How would an (anthropologist, artist, minister, journalist) perceive this situation?

It can be a very powerful experience to pick someone who has been an important teacher or mentor to you and view the situation or generalization from that person's perspective as well.

An Example of the Right Words at the Right Time

As a practical example, of how I have applied some of the principles we have been exploring in this book for myself, I was in a bar once with Richard Bandler, to have a meeting. It was the type of place that is typically called a "biker bar"; meaning that it was full of some pretty rough and unsavory characters. This was not the type of place that I generally liked to hang out, but Richard liked it and wanted to meet there.

We started talking, and pretty soon these two large men came in. They were drunk and angry, and wanted to pick on somebody. I guess they could tell that I didn't really belong in a place like that, because pretty soon they started shouting obscenities at me and Bandler, calling us "queers," and telling us to get out of the bar.

My first strategy was to attempt to politely ignore them, which, of course, did not work. It wasn't long before one of the guys was bumping my arm and spilling my drink. So, I decided to try to be friendly. I looked over at them and smiled. One of them said, "What are you looking at?" When I averted my gaze, the other one said, "Look at me while I'm talking to you."

Things were getting pretty bad, and, to my surprise, I was getting angry. Fortunately I realized that following the normal pattern of response would only serve to escalate the situation. So, I had a brilliant idea; why not use NLP? I derided to try to discover and address their positive intention. I took a breath, and stepped into their shoes for a split second. In an even and steady voice, I said to the man nearest to me, "You know, I don't really think that you believe we are homosexuals. As you can clearly see, I am wearing a wedding ring. I think that you have a different intention." At this point, the fellow blurted out, "Yeh, we want to fight!"

Now, I know that some of you readers are probably sarcastically thinking, "Wow, Robert, what incredible progress. This Sleight of Mouth stuff must be pretty powerful." On the other hand, there was progress, because I had begun to engage them in a conversation, rather than a one-sided tirade. Seizing the opportunity, I responded, "I understand that, but it really wouldn't be much of a fight. First of all, 1 don't want to fight, so you wouldn't get much out of me. Besides, you are both twice my size. What kind of fight would that be?"

At this point, the second fellow (who was the 'brains' of the two) said, "No. Its a fair fight; we're drunk." Turning to look the man squarely in the eyes, I said, "Don't you think that would be just like a father coming home and beating up his fourteen year old son, and saying that it was 'fair' because the father was drunk?" I was certain that this was probably what happened to this man over and over again when he was fourteen.

Confronted with the truth, the two men could no longer continue to be abusive to Bandler and I; and eventually went to bother someone else (who turned out to be a karate expert that took them outside and whipped them soundly).

The way Bandler tells the story, I began to elicit the two men's submodalities and their decision strategy for choosing us to pick on, and eventually did therapy with them. [According to him, he was going to suggest that, since they wanted to fight, they should just go outside and fight with each other.] But that is not exactly how I remember it. It did, however, confirm my belief in the power of language and NLP.

Chapter 3


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