A perceptual position is a point of view which includes all of our representational systems (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, gustatory, olfactory, linguistic). Our body’s somatic syntax, our beliefs, our patterns and behaviors, etc., are also parts of what we perceive, and thus can be important components of our perceptual position.

Our brains are capable of representing more than one perceptual position. When in a perceptual position, a person internally represents the world, events – past, present or future – and relationships in an associated way from within that position. Here is a brief synopsis of the four main perceptual positions as described and used in NLP:

  • 1st Position: The perceptual position of oneself. What one sees, hears, feels, tastes, smells; plus what one believes, one’s capabilities, behaviors, etc.
  • 2nd Position: The perceptual position of another. Another can be a person, an animal, vegetable or mineral. Another can be real, imagined or remembered, a character from a novel or movie, a supportive mentor or a critic, a future or ideal self, or any number of archetypal roles.
  • 3rd Position: The perceptual position of an observer. An observer can be a fair witness, a scientist from another planet, a fly on the wall, or any uninvolved entity, real or imagined, with the ability to perceive in a disinterested and well intentioned way.
  • 4th Position: The perceptual position of the larger system or systems. The system can see all of the other positions at once, as a whole, and use all of the representation systems to perceive such things as relationships between other positions, effects on the system itself, and systems within systems to any level of magnitude, large or small.