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Disciplines > Communication > Models > Viewpoint

First person | Second person | Third person | See also


When talking about communication, you can do so from three positions, each of which has a particular perception that differs depending on where the person is standing relative to other actors.

First person

In the first person view, or first position, you are the person doing the speaking, transmitting the message. You know the deep meaning that you want to transmit to the recipient(s) of the message.

You have control of the detail of the message and possibly the medium too, but not how the message will be interpreted. The frustration of the first person is that even with careful crafting of the message, what is received and inferred is unlikely to be exactly as intended.

Where you are one-to-one and face-to-face with the second person, then you have a reasonable chance of testing whether your message has been received accurately (although we seldom do this). In a one-to-many context (such as public speaking) or remote (such as a journalist) setting, you can at best guess and aim for an 'average' recipient.

Second person

In the second person viewpoint, or second position, you are the recipient of the message. You are the focus of attention, which may or may not feel good, depending on your perception of the intent of the first person. You also have to infer the meaning in the message.

The second person may or may not have the option in the attention that they pay to the message, which may be a frustration for the first person. The second person's frustrations may lie in the difficulty of interpretation or the inability to question or curtail the message.

Third person

The third person is an observer of the interaction between the first and second person. They do not take part in the communication in that they neither are the presenter of the message nor the primary recipient.

In this third position, the observer can be objective, looking at the whole scene of first person, message, medium and second person without the emotional investment of the involved parties.

The third person is in a unique position to provide support for any or all of the other people involved. There are many roles that may taken in this, including mediator, therapist, consultant and more, and the number of people who essentially perform such functions as a significant part of their work is testament to the need for this position.

See also

The SIFT Model

Review: The Third Side

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