How to Know What Other People Want using Perceptual Positions

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If you don’t know why it’s important to understand what others want, you’re in dire straits. In case you’ve never considered it, you are alive on this earth because somebody wanted something. Using perceptual positions will help you understand others’ needs better.

You have a job – or a place in a family – because there are wants and needs to fulfill.

Wants and needs make the world go around. If you’re skilled at understanding what people want and learn to deliver it, then you can thrive. There will always be an opportunity to fill a need. The more you can fill needs, the more successful you will be.

So, how do you know what people want and need?

In NLP, we discover this by using a technique called Perceptual Positions.

You could always ask, but here’s the problem: People don’t necessarily know what they want, much less what they need. If you doubt this, watch me try to order food at a restaurant. I usually end up sending stuff back at least twice before I settle on something. Then, of course that something turns out to be so-so, but by then I’ve exhausted the wait staff!

When it comes to need, you should know that most people spend most of their lives resisting many of their own needs.

People have needs for:

• Health and vitality, but lead lifestyles that cause disease and lethargy
• Loving companionship, but spend so much time picking fights
• Safety and calm, but spend much of their lives stressed out

Most of us have the food-clothing-shelter thing down, but higher needs are hit and miss. So, we all need to get better at putting ourselves in others’ shoes, making an informed judgment about what they need, and offering it to them in a way they can understand. In NLP, we call this ‘going second position’. It’s part of the Perceptual Positions model in the iNLP Center NLP Practitioner Certification training.

Going second position is a magical move, as it allows you to imagine being someone else, but with your own perspective in tact.. If you’re a professional, for example, you can put yourself in a client’s shoes and evaluate your business from that powerful place.

As you do so, it will hopefully occur to you that your clients know very little – or absolutely nothing – about your business product or service. After years of training and experience, chances are you’ve forgotten what it’s like to know nothing.

Once you’re in your client’s point of view, assuming you know nothing, then try this experiment. Read your website, or a sales flyer, or an article you wrote. How well does it come across to people who don’t already have the specialized education you have?

When you communicate with your clients, what are you naturally assuming they understand?

Historically, doctors are among the worst perpetrators of these kinds of assumptions. As they attempt to explain their methodology, you get lost in the jargon. Smart as they are, doctors have a hard time going second position and therefore don’t communicate well with patients.

On a personal front, how much time do you spend evaluating yourself from your partner’s point of view? Give it a shot:

1. Remember a recent misunderstanding and review it in your mind’s eye.

2. Next, review it a second time from your partner’s point of view. Pretend  you are him/her. What do you look and sound like. How do you feel, being in your partner’s shoes?

3. Going second position. Try it for a day or two. If you naturally go second position, then do it consciously. You may be surprised at what you discover.

Perceptual Positions is in module 10 of our NLP Online Certification Course.

About Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is a retired psychotherapist, Master NLP trainer, and practicing life coach. He and his wife, Hope, founded iNLP Center in 2011. For information on coaching with Mike, please visit his coaching website AHA System.

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