An NLP Technique to Resolve Disputes


Is it possible to use NLP to prevent and resolve conflicts and disputes?  Here’s how one of my favourite NLP techniques can be used to do this. Rumour has it that in a recent survey 90% of people thought they were right about a recent dispute.  If we’re all thinking that, there’ll be plenty of work for lawyers.  So the question is, how can we resolve disputes, gain insights into others and have a win-win situation without the hassle of legal processes?

Resolving disputes so we all winOne excellent NLP technique to do this is called ‘perceptual positions’.  One colleague saved literally £millions for her company by using it, and because it is so useful I always teach it on my NLP training courses. It requires a willingness to be open, can be done alone or facilitated by someone impartial, and usually takes less than 15 minutes with each person involved.  The principle is that there is more than one way to view a situation, and that multiple perspectives lead to better insights and better decisions.

Here’s a simple explanation of the technique. Let’s assume that I (Jeremy) have a dispute with a client called Fred. I firstly ask myself whether I really want the dispute resolved or do I simply want to be ‘right’ even at the expense of the dispute continuing.  Assuming I want resolution, I mark three spaces in a room, equidistant from each other (in a triangular shape). We can label them positions 1, 2 and 3.

I start in position 1, as me, looking at Fred in position 2.  I get in touch with how I am feeling and thinking about the situation, typically for around 30 seconds.

I then move from there towards position 2, pausing half-way to think of something completely unrelated to clear my head, perhaps what I will be doing over the weekend or a film I recently saw. In position 2, I ‘become’ Fred, standing or sitting as he would, really getting into his mindset.  From here, as Fred, I look across at Jeremy over there in position 1, asking myself how I (Fred) am thinking and feeling about the situation with Jeremy, and what I’d like to say to him, and what I want from him. This is where the insights start, and the vast majority of people will gain insights about the situation from this ‘position 2’ perspective.  I continue here in position 2 (asking ‘what else?’ a few times) until no new insights are forthcoming.

I then move towards position 3, again pausing half-way to clear my head as above. In position 3, I become a neutral observer, seeing Jeremy over there in position 1 and Fred facing him in position 2. As a neutral observer, I ask myself what I notice about those two people and their situations, what advice I would give each of them, and how each party could respond if the other person took this neutral advice, and other open questions. Most people are able to be dispassionate and offer sound advice when they are not involved in a situation – this is ‘position 3’ thinking.

I then return to position 1, as myself, with the learnings from the perspective of Fred and the neutral advisor. Once I see things from other perspectives, I can become more appreciative of Fred’s position and respond accordingly. For most of my clients and NLP training course delegates, physically having the three positions and moving between each of them helps alter their thinking and gain new perspectives. And whilst Fred (or your equivalent of him) may not be in the room, they are in your head, and by changing the way you perceive him/her/them will alter the way you approach the disagreement.

The exercise is also highly useful for selling, decision-making and improving relationships.  And most importantly, it keeps the lawyers fees down!

This entry was posted in: Business and the workplace, NLP