How Your Mental Landscape Affects Your Real Life Relationships


When I learnt about our mental landscape a few years ago, I wasn’t convinced that anything so simple could have the slightest impact on how I felt about someone…

Until I tried it myself!

Your mental landscape

What if the way you think about someone, the way you picture them in your mind’s eye — in your mental landscape — actually affects your relationship with them?

Well, guess what? It does!

Your mental landscape — also called social panorama — is a combination of NLP and social psychology

Social panorama  was developed by Dutch NLP Trainer and social psychologist Lucas Derks. It looks at how we create mental landscapes of the people in our lives.

I’ve now practised Social Panorama (SP) with several hundred clients and course participants, and can attest to the enormous difference it makes to the way you relate to others and vice versa. So I’m sharing SP in this post, hoping it will help you change any of your less-than-useful connections.

Let me explain how Social Panorama works

When we think about the people in our lives, we locate them in a mental landscape — in the space around our bodies. Lucas Derks calls this our social panorama. This location process is largely unconscious and thus, you’re unlikely to be aware of the impact that your mental positioning is having on your relationship with others.

You can make your social landscape conscious

Once conscious, you can experiment by moving people around and noticing how you feel when you put them in different places. You’ll be able to observe how any placement change you make alters how you think and feel about that person. And when you change where you imagine them, that will change how you relate to them.

Here’s an exercise you can do to become aware of your metal landscape

A picture tells a thousand words — so here you go — make some pictures! Ready? O.K.

Close your eyes

Actually, don’t close your eyes — read the exercise first!

Better still, do the exercise with a friend or family member. Let them ask you the questions below, then swap over.

Think of various people with whom you share your life and notice where, in your imagination and in the space surrounding you, you locate them. For example, where are your:

  • Siblings? (Locate them individually)
  • Parents? (Locate them individually)
  • Partner?
  • Friends? (Locate a couple of them individually)
  • Colleagues? (Locate a couple of them individually)
  • Your boss?
  • The CEO?

Notice where they are in your mental landscape

Who is:

  • Closest?
  • Most distant? (The physical location of a person — where he or she lives — has nothing to do with this. Someone can live on the other side of the world yet still be near to you in your social panorama.)
  • Higher?
  • Lower?
  • On the right?
  • On the left?
  • Behind you?

You could plot these on a piece of paper.

Mental landscaping

Now try moving them around (in your mind — not on the paper!)

For example, what happens if you move someone who is close to you, further away? How do you feel?

Move someone that’s in the distance really close and up higher. What are you experiencing now? Remember to move people back to where they were to begin with, if the change makes you feel uncomfortable.

The language we use isn’t coincidental

They way you talk about people accurately reflects how you situate someone in your social panorama:

  • We’re very close.
  • Distant relatives.
  • Hold in high esteem.
  • In my face.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Near and dear.
  • Low self-confidence.
  • Look down on someone.
  • Look up to someone.
  • Keep at arms’ length.
  • Etc (there are many others).

If your role involves coaching, pay attention to the language your clients use to discuss relationship issues. Because within the problem language is the kernel of the solution.

Here’s an illustration of how this works

Many times I’ve had clients who suffer from ‘stage fright’; problems with public speaking and presenting. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I wrote ‘Presentations That Rock.’ The way presenters represent their audience in their social panorama is one of the key factors contributing to their fear. It’s therefore also a key to the solution.

The problem is all in their mind

In their mind, this — or some variation of this — is how my clients perceive their audience: They imagine them as huge (larger than life!) and often belligerent people with angry faces. And my clients have them towering over them in their social panorama. By implication that leaves my client feeling small, apprehensive and overwhelmed. What better way to experience total vulnerability!

The solution is unbelievably simple:

I have my client move the audience, in their mind’s eye, down to the same level as themselves and make the people normal size. Just making this simple change results in a big deep breath and their body relaxes. Then I have them make the audience appear friendly and interested (as opposed to hostile and disinterested). The result is a huge upward shift in confidence when speaking and presenting. Then, their self- confidence evokes a much better response from their audiences — which further builds the presenters self-belief.

Low self-esteem

In this scenario, the client has determined her self-esteem is low.

If someone has a ‘low self’, then, by implication they are placing others above themselves

Your self-esteem comes from your self — hence self-esteem.

When I ask where she locates the other people in her life, they’re invariably up higher than the client. Bringing them down (just in your imagination!) creates an almost instant change in physiology — from tenseness to calm. Now she begins relating to people as equals and they respond as equals.

The emotional reaction to people placement

Man in your face - black and white

Someone who is up front and in your face (notice that language again) in your social panorama, is more likely to elicit an emotional response in real life. If this emotion feels good, that’s great. If you don’t particularly like the associated emotion, push the person away and into the distance. (In your mind that is — I’m not advocating pushing people around in real-life!) Then be aware of how you feel differently — instantly. Does it feel as if there is more distance between you?

How to build a closer relationship

If you want to feel closer to someone, move them closer in your social panorama. The move will unconsciously affect the way you relate to them, so you will relate more closely.

I said this was simple

OK, over to you. Please try this out for yourself because it truly can work wonders and change relationships for the better.

Things to remember about mental landscapes

  • We have a way of mentally positioning the people in our life — our mental landscape.
  • The way we envisage someone affects our relationship with them.
  • A key to understanding a person’s mental landscape is listening to the language they use.
  • Changing the location of a person in your mental landscape will affect the way you relate with that person.
  • It works!

Ways you can learn more about social panorama and how to use it

How to protect yourself from bullying — by changing your mind – blog post

NLP Practitioner Certification Training

Tags: Health and wellbeing, Language, Perception, Self-awareness, Self-confidence and self-esteem


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *