Models for coaching

The Meta Mirror

The Meta Mirror is a powerful, NLP-based tool to help you see different perspectives and alternative ways of looking at your situation.

Useful in coaching for Making a Change, Self-Awareness, Understanding Behaviour 

Meta Mirror - Exercise and Coaching Template

What is the Meta Mirror?

The Meta Mirror is a way of seeing a situation from multiple perspectives. It allows you to step back from a potentially ego-centred view and explore a situation from multiple angles and perspectives.

It’s used when your current situation may be being clouded or obstructed by a singular way of thinking or in building greater empathy and awareness of multiple perspectives.

It’s usually done as a psychical exercise – meaning you move around the room to observe yourself or the situation from several angles. This further adds to the feeling of seeing your situation from multiple perspectives.

Originally developed by Robert Dilts, the co-developer of Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), to help clients build greater awareness of the situation they’re in.

How is the Meta Mirror used?

The Meta Mirror is effective in any situation where it’s useful to see things from multiple angles, or when you’re struggling to “zoom out” and see the situation from a broader perspective.

Unlike a simple conversation about seeing other perspectives, the Meta Mirror encourages you to physically move to those positions and “see” the previous position. When done correctly, and in a trusted environment, this can be a very powerful way to unlock different ways of thinking.

Uses for the Meta Mirror include:

  • Unstick yourself in situations where you’re finding it hard to step away.
  • Support in conflict resolutions and negotiations.
  • Build empathy and understanding to different perspectives.
  • Learn forgiveness and acceptance.

How to use the Meta Mirror

The Meta Mirror can be used in a variety of ways, and in a 3 and 5 step process. Below I’ve outlined the 5 stage approach but if you prefer you can skip stages 4 and 5.

Important note about Positions: Below, you’ll notice we talk about “positions”. These are exactly what they appear to be, different positions or states you take to look at the situation. Each one is designed to give a different perspective and help you build greater awareness.

Set up – before you start

Position 2 chairs facing one another. You (the client) sits in one chair, facing the other. You coach or guide will ask you to imagine you are facing the (imaginary) person or situation you are dealing with. It’s worth spending some time visualising and articulating the situation or person before you start.

For a person, you might describe:

  • What they looks like.
  • How they come across to you.
  • What their facial expressions are like.
  • How they seem to be behaving towards you.

For a situation, you might describe:

  • What it looks like visually, if you could encapsulate it.
  • What it feels like to be close to it – the emotions it triggers.
  • The physical characteristics – dark/light, heavy, ominous, intimidating.

1. The Meta Mirror: First Perceptual Position – You

Meta Mirror - Position 1

This is the position you start in – facing the other chair. You focus on you – your feelings, senses, what’s going on in your head.

You’ll be asked to talk to the other chair, and whoever or whatever is in it. It’s you opportunity to talk and explain your current thinking. The explain your feelings and perspective, in as much detail as you like.

Take note of how you would imagine the person/situation opposite is responding to you too. Try to explain and verbalise what you see. How does their behaviour change based on what you’re saying?

Observations to make:

  • How are your emotions changing as you talk and explain to the other chair?
  • What are your 5 senses doing? Can you notice how they’re affecting your feelings?
  • How easy is it to articulate yourself and how you feel?
  • What’s the overriding feeling you have in the Position?

2. The Meta Mirror: Second Perceptual Position – The other person

The Meta Mirror - Position 2

Now, swap chairs. You’re taking the position of the other person. This stage of the Meta Mirror asks you to empathise and observe as the other party.

This time, consider things from the other parties position. Focus on that person’s position and their emotional state. What is it they want to say to you? How are they verbalising that?

It’s useful in this part of the exercise to APL (assume positive intent), initially and see what you find. We’re all guilty of communicating poorly sometimes, so is we APL, what might be their motivations?

Observations to make:

  • How do you see yourself from their perspective? What do you notice?
  • What do you think their overriding emotions are?
  • What makes you say that?
  • What’s their overriding motivation in this scenario? What makes you say that?
  • How might they see the situation differently from you?

3. The Meta Mirror: Third Perceptual Position – You as Observer

Meta Mirror - Perceptual Position 3

Next, you’ll be asked to stand up and position yourself so you can see both chairs. This is you observing you and the other party.

You imagine yourself observing the interplay between you and the other party. Free from the shackles of being caught up in the situation and able to observe from your perspective.

You’re observing the situation and the individuals in both chairs (you and the other party).

Some useful questions might be:

  • What would you like to say to both parties?
  • What do you notice about the behaviour and language of both parties?
  • If you could give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
  • If you could give the other party one word of advice, what would it be?

4. The Meta Mirror: Forth Perceptual Position – The Whole System

Meta Mirror - 4th Position

Now, take a few steps away from where you were standing. In this part of the Meta Mirror you’re now observing the whole. The interplay between the you in the chair, the other person and you observing both.

You’re looking at the situation from a wider perspective. Depending on the scenario, that could include the wider team, the wider family, the wider context – in essence the system that it operates in. You’re treating the three previous Positions as a whole and exploring it in the wider context of this system.

You’re interested in how the scenario is being influenced by and is influencing the wider system.

Observations to make:

  • How is the scenario influencing the wider system? In what way?
  • How is the wider system influencing the scenario?
  • What would be the right thing to do when viewed from this wider perspective?

5. The Meta Mirror: Fifth Perceptual Position – The Observer

Meta Mirror Template - Perceptual Position 5

Finally, in this position you are viewing things from the widest possible perspective.

Some people find it useful to see things from the perspective of an all-knowing, “higher power”. Something that has a universal perspective. Others prefer something more practical – considering things from a position of deep knowledge, empathy and awareness of this situation’s part in the world at large.

The key is to find something that looks at your situation from a global or knowledgeable but removed position.

Observations to make:

  • What is your view on the situation from this perspective?
  • What advice would this “being” give to each of the other Positions?
  • How would this “being’s” guidance influence the situation?

That’s it!

You’ve followed the steps to build your own Meta Mirror, and hopefully learnt some lessons to improve your present or define your future.

Example Meta Mirror Template

To help you get started, I’ve put together an example you can start using today.

Meta Mirror Template

Use this template as a starting point for running through your own Meta Mirror.

Meta Mirror Exercise Template The Pathfinder Coach

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