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Relationships are key in for clients achieving what they need for themselves and their teams. When relationship issues arise clients often only look at the situation from their perspective. The Meta Mirror tool allows clients see relationships from different, higher and more inclusive perspectives.
Robert Dilts, co-developer of NLP is the originator of Meta Mirror. It uses different ‘positions’ to view and examine situations. It forms empathy in difficult situations and identifies helpful or unhelpful thinking. Finally, it also help clients see how they might be influence others or be influenced themselves by others.
Within many relationships individuals do become entrenched in their own view of the world. Even looking for evidence to reinforce their view of a situation (confirmation bias). This builds walls not empathy. Viewing different perspectives builds inclusivity.
In addition, it is worth noting, there is some overlap with ‘Systems work’ by John Whittington.
Three Meta Mirror Perceptual positions
Whilst there are 5 originally stated positions by Dilts, many practitioners simply focus and use the first 3 for most situations:
- First position– the client’s own position on the relationship.
- Second position– viewing it from the other persons perspective.
- Third position– the client being ‘a fly on the wall’, having a more objective view.
Simple overview of using the Meta Mirror
A very simple consideration using the Meta Mirror with clients. Focusing on the first three positions:
- How is the client observing the situation and relationship from their own perspective? Their current thoughts, feelings and experiences through their own eyes. (First position). How are they behaving? What are they saying and doing? What are they seeing and learning? How do they see the relationship now and have their views altered at all?
- Next, exploring with the client what the other person is experiencing. How they view the relationship and situation. The client stepping into the other person’s shoes. How do they view the client? Their thoughts and feelings about the client. The coach can suggest the client closes their eyes to further focus their thinking. Again similar questions as the first position are used for the client as if they were the other person. (Second position).
- Finally, the ‘fly on the wall’, observing happenings in the relationship. What are you observing about both parties? How are they behaving? What are both parties seeing? What are they experiencing? How are they both feeling and thinking? What might be important to both client and the other? What be learnt from this situation? (Third position). There is less emotion from the client in this position.
Making it practical
Similarly, as with systems thinking, Meta Mirror is often used in very practical ways:
- A simple verbal conversation based on the coach’s questions.
- The client moving through the three positions writing down their responses to the positions on 3 separate flip charts. These are observed in their entirety, the client bringing out observations. What (themes) are they noticing?
- Using post it notes, writing down the different people in the relationships. Or, noting down responses to each of the positions to build up a physical picture.
- Together with these, writing down the three positions on separate A4 paper. The coach introduces each sheet, asks their questions before then introducing the next one. The client is encouraged to stand on each sheet in turn and physically ‘be’ in that position as they think and process. The third piece of paper could be some distance away from the first two, signifying that objectivity.
A key for getting the most from this tool for the client is getting them fully immersed and ‘be’ in each of the Meta Mirror positions. This helps build clarity, a more complete picture, build emotional engagement and empathy.
In summary, being able to see different relationship perspectives is key to understanding and unlocking them. Coaches have a critical responsibility in helping their clients explore where relationships are confrontational, unproductive or have reached an impasse.
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