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Perceptual Positioning Coaching Tool For Conflict Resolution

Updated: Jun 22

So there is a difficult conversation you need to have with someone or do your team members keep arguing? Here is a technique to help you.

There has been much written about how movement can improve your ability to be creative and solve problems. Movement has also been shown to reduce anxiety and change your mental state.

Perceptual positioning was developed as an exercise to encourage modelling another person’s behaviour and thought process by moving into their "shoes" and really understanding their thought process. It has a number of different attributes which are very useful for coaching, conflict resolution and preparation for unknown conversations with people. A study by Connirae Andreas showed that our visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (feeling) perceptions may be misaligned with the people we are speaking to. This may cause difficulties in communication. Learning to 'align' our perceptual positions brings us a greater ability to create rapport and enables us to become more integrated with the other person we are speaking to. This also enables us to “see and hear” things from the other person’s perspective, therefore creating a better communication environment.

I found this exercise particularly useful for interview preparation for use in career coaching. Also for situations where there is potentially going to be a confrontation, conflict or a challenging conversation.

How do you want to be heard? How is the other person hearing what you’re saying?

These are questions during difficult conversations you might want to think about. Especially at the moment when emotions can be running high and responses may be unpredictable, you can potentially look at every result of the conversation by practising. Then work out how you are going to respond for the best possible outcome.

Perceptual Positioning Technique For Conflict Resolution And Coaching

1st Position = You.

Think about the type of situation you will be in. Will you be sitting opposite someone on chairs? Will you be standing opposite them in a room? Will this be a screen opposite you for an online conversation? If the conversation is going to be online or there is going to be two chairs then set up two chairs opposite each other or in a similar configuration. The first position is yourself so you sit in the chair and be yourself. If standing, imagine where you and the other person would each be standing.

2nd Position = The other person.

Within perceptual positioning, you physically move and change state and sit where the other person would sit, or stand where the other person would stand. What you’re doing is changing state to become them. If you know them and it’s possible to imagine their body language and also their language patterns this can be useful, but is not essential. Then you can start to have a conversation with the other person. Start with whoever would usually be saying the first line. If it’s the interviewer saying “How are you today”, take up the 2nd position and then when you respond move back to your position. After you have responded as yourself moved to the second position and imagine how that person has heard that response. What does it sound like to them? How do you think they would then respond? Is it possible that you sounded antagonistic? Is it possible that you could have spoken to them in a different way which would have directed a different or more positive outcome?

3rd Position = The Observer.

There is a third position which is standing and watching the conversation happen. How does it look from an outsider? What would an outsider think, see and hear? You can take up the observer position at any point during the conversation when you want to have an external view of what might really be happening and listen to what is really being said.

This technique can be used for interviews, it can be used for business meetings, it can be used for leadership and employee conversations. There are many aspects where difficult conversations can be resolved and also practised. This can also be used as a self-coaching technique.

As a Coach or Leader, you can use this with your client or team member if they appear to be having repetitive conflict or would like to work through a conversation they find challenging.

Of course, we have the ability to record ourselves and video ourselves on our phones however it can be a really useful exercise to sit in the seat of the person we are speaking to and understand how we are being heard, despite what we think we are saying. Understanding other people’s reality and map of the world that they live in, is essential for maximum communication and building optimum rapport.

To talk about an observed perceptual positioning session or if you are a Coach who would like to talk about a session to understand this technique better please message me at

Caroline Langston is the Founder of Successful Consultants Ltd, an executive, personal and career development coaching company in Hong Kong, with her partner Patrick Bennett founding the practice in New York. She is also the Founder of a nonprofit providing free information and coaching to people who are unemployed. Caroline is dedicated to coaching people for success and happiness in their careers and lives. She is a Certified Professional Coach at International Coaching Federation standards. Certified Team Coach and is also degree qualified with further certifications in Neuro Linguistic Programming at Master Practitioner and Coach level.

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