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How to Develop Wisdom Using Integral Perspectives

“The four quadrants (4-human perspectives on reality) can help us orient ourselves more effectively, in becoming more conscious of the evolutionary currents already flowing around us and through us, and in us”.

Ken Wilber – Integral Institute


Hey, Jay here from The Coaching Room, thanks for checking out my article.


The four perspectives (or quadrants) is a powerful developmental model for enabling you to develop skillful means in your communicating, whilst simultaneously growing the capacity for experiencing more perspectives on reality (developing cognitive and emotional intelligence).


Right back to the start – the perceptual positions model from NLP


The Perceptual Positions model (and pattern) was originally formulated by John Grinder and Judith DeLozier in 1987 as operational extensions of the NLP concept of “referential Index” meaning, to who or what are you specifically referring to when you use pronouns “that, they, it, him, her etc.” in a sentence?) EG. If someone says,“They are the problem!” the referential index is “they (2nd person)”.


It was an extraordinary discovery of it’s time, as we will soon see.


This discovery was also the foundation of the domain of reframing (one of the key domains of NLP) whereby changing the referential index with a simple question, we can facilitate the reframing of the client’s constructed meaning about their experience.


EG. In a Coaching session, a client might say “my boss doesn’t like me or appreciate me, he never listens at me”


The Coach could then reframe this by asking a question that changes the referential index (therefore applying that same statement to the client) “Does your not listening to your boss always mean you don’t like him?”


This question invites the client to reconsider their mind-read of their boss’s intent, by looking at the situation through and from a new perspective.


Simple, but powerful! This is an example of the power of the NLP model in action.


Then, in 1994 a guy called Ken Wilber, (founder of Integral Theory and Integral Institute), discovers (finds) the 4 Quadrants – the 4 integral perspectives of reality – with no experience of or understanding of NLP.


The alignment of Ken’s Quadrants model to Grinder and DeLozier’s model was, and remains, astonishing, given Wilber knew nothing of NLP and the perceptual positions model.


What’s even more astonishing is that Ken Wilber discovered an additional missing perspective, the inter-objective perspective or 4th person perspective.

And that one perspective changed everything!


We’ll take a look at the four perspectives, and what’s so powerful about them, then we’ll look at how you can facilitate growth and development within yourself – to enable more personal wisdom.


The 4 positions (perspectives)


1st Position (first-person perspective) – Self (I) – The healthy position of seeing, hearing, and feeling from out of oneself. We take this position to speak authentically, to present ourselves, our thoughts, feelings, and responses congruently, to disclose, listen, inquire, and be present with another. This position is known as “looking”.


2nd Position (2nd person perspective) – Other (we) – The empathy position of lookinbg as another; understanding, feeling with, and seeing things from another’s point of view. Here we feel in accord with the other and develop a strong sense of others – his or her perspective.  This position is known as “looking as – another – inter-subjectively”. This is the perspective of religion.


3rd Position (third-person perspective) Meta (it) – The position of stepping back to gain a sense of distance, to observe, witness, be neutral, and appreciate other perspectives (see what they cannot see).  This position is known as “looking at – another – objectively”. This is the perspective of science.


4th Position (fourth person perspective) Meta System (its) – The position for understanding the wider context(s) (ie. Environmental, social, linguistic, business, family, organisational, and other systemic contexts.) that influence all of the larger systems and contexts of our world.  This position is known as “looking systemically – inter-objectively”. This is the functional fit view.


The Power of 4 Perspectives


We could literally write several books on the power of the quadrants or perspectives (Ken Wilber has). So I’ll summarise:


To hold multiple perspectives at once, in any and all moments, enables you freedom from:


       The limits of any single perspective (partiality)

       Any double binds (damned if I do, damned if I don’t)

       A polarity of mind (being had by or caught in disagreement)

       Any argument with another (the need to hold a single perspective)

       Any cultural rules (being able to reframe norms, beliefs and rules)

       Any systemic struggle (where you no longer functionally fit within a system).


To hold multiple perspectives at once, in any and all moments, enables you the power to:

       Run your own brain

       Take responsibility for your thinking, feeling, speaking and behaving

       Respond to people, events, the environment with congruence

       Take massive action in a considered, holistic and ecological way

       Access unlimited intrinsic (rather than extrinsic) motivation and apply it to anything that you like (goals, challenges, struggles, etc.)

       Become a model of change for others to follow (influence others)


A Reflective and Practical Developmental Process for you to take away and practice.


We have a saying at The Coaching Room (a pre-suppositional statement) that we live into each day.


“Talent is overrated, practice is underrated. Talent (the development of your potential) is nurtured – only through practice). The ultimate practice is practicing your practices…”


This practice is a developmental practice that is done by reflectively journaling through this process – each day, until you begin to gain 4-person perspective awareness in the moment. Then, our recommendation is that you keep practicing until the practice becomes a lifestyle 🙂


The following process is a practical way to use the 4 quadrants (perspectives) to develop your capacities and cultivate your skillful means in looking at events, situations, people, relationships, systems and processes through the lens of multiple perspectives.


On a page, draw a cross and label the 4 positions.


Start by describing (journaling about) an event where you experience you were/are unresourceful in your responding to something such as criticism, blame or a challenge with or from another person.


1) Step back into that memory


Recall the memory as if you were back there again; seeing, hearing and feeling what you saw, heard and felt then. Answer the following questions from first position; use “I” statements.


–       “What did you experience that was un-resourceful to you?”

–       “What do you believe about the situation or experience?”

–       “What does this situation or experience mean to you?”

–       “What do you feel (anger, sadness, frustration, anxious etc) as you recall the situation or experience?”


2) Step out of that memory and into the position of the person you were interacting with at the time.


From the other person’s point of view, look back at the ‘you’ in that memory.

From this expanded perspective, express what you see, hear and feel as if you were the other person.  Use their language – be them (as best you can) as you look back at you.


–       “How would you describe “the them” in this experience or situation (how do you think the second person thinks and feels about the experience/situation?”

–       “How would you describe “the you” in this experience/situation, as you look back at you from the other’s perspective (“EG. Jay seems to be angry and disappointed in me and I don’t know why because he hasn’t said why…”)

–       “What did “the you” in this experience do or say (or not do or say) that seemed un-resourceful from this person’s perspective?”

–       “From this view, what does “the you” in this situation/experience not see that you now see (from the other’s perspective)?


3) Step aside from this memory and the first two positions as an “invisible observer” to the whole experience.


From the position of an uninvolved witness, what do you see, hear, or feel about that interaction that neither of the “you” or “other” involved in the experience could/can see?


–       “What is each person doing or saying that the other isn’t hearing or seeing?”

–       “Do they have rapport?”

–       “Can each of them see the other’s perspective (or are they stuck in their own perspective)?”

–       “What are they both trying to achieve through the interaction?”

–       “If they are in polarity, what is the stand that they are both taking, on behalf of?”


4) Step out yet another time to a position out beyond the whole system of interaction.


What additional awareness do you have, understand, feel, etc. as you look at all of that from a larger systems (environment, others around, weather, time, day, etc.) point of view?


–       “What do notice about the environment that neither of them see?”

–       “Is there anyone else involved in the interaction – that may or may not be present?”

–       What other factors are contributing to the interaction (if any)?


5) Step back into position 1, what are you now more aware of, than you were before you began this exercise?

–       – What were you missing (if anything)?”

–       “What new information do you have about the interaction?”

–       “How does this change your experience of the interaction?”


6) Write down at least one new realisation or awareness from the process.


–       “What will you do differently next time an interaction like this occurs?”

–       “Where else could you apply this learning?”


This exercise is just the beginning of what is possible with the quadrant model. Watch our for more articles in future and stay hungry.


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