NLP FAQ's / Help Center
What is the difference between External (Other) and Internal (Self) Frame of Reference?
In this Meta Program, a person's attention references either oneself or another. Like other Meta Programs, the operation and use of self/other referencing is generally non-conscious though its effects may be keenly felt.
Self or Internal Frame of Reference
Self Reference is the selection of evidence and criteria based on reference to one's own perceptions, beliefs, values, etc. It is related both to self-confidence, at the healthy end of the spectrum, and sociopathy at the other end.
A person with an internal frame-of-reference is very intuitive and self-oriented. This means that they often make decisions based on personal feelings and opinions. They must feel within themselves that they’ve done a good job or made a good decision. Therefore, in order to influence, motivate and build rapport with this person you will need to talk about their experiences and allow them to make up their own mind about the issue at hand.
As an example, if a person using Self Referencing is asked how they know when they've done a good job at work, they might say something like, "I can see when it's good." And if the question is put, "What would your reaction be if others found fault with it?" their answer might be along the lines of, "That would be their opinion."
Other or External Frame of Reference
Other Reference is the selection of evidence and criteria based on reference to the perceptions, beliefs, values, etc., of others - whether the evidence is real or imagined. It is related both to compassion, at the healthy end of the spectrum, and co-dependence at the other end.
A person with an external frame-of-reference is very much focused on others. They are consistently seeking external answers and approval from others. As a result, they make decisions based on people’s opinions, perspectives, and actions. Therefore in order to influence, motivate and build rapport with this person you will need to provide them with your own suggestions or talk about other people’s ideas and suggestions and how they can be of value in this situation.
For example, if a person using Other Referencing is asked how they know when they've done a good job at work, they might say something like, "I can tell by people's reactions," or, "They'll tell me that it's good." If the follow-up question is asked, "What if they don't think it's good and you disagree?" they might answer, "I'd have to wonder what I did wrong."
This Meta Program should not be confused with descriptors like "introverted" or "extroverted". In some ways, Self/Other Referencing is the opposite of introverted/extroverted. Ironically, Self Referencing is more likely to go with extroversion and Other Referencing is more likely to go with introversion.
A person who has appropriate choice and flexibility with regard to whether they are self referencing or other referencing in a particular context is likely to have both self confidence and the ability to take into account the feelings and points of view of others.
Other factors are often present when a person self references or other references habitually without a sense of choice. Such factors include self-other confusion, self-concept, and depth of self understanding and awareness. Problems related to the overuse of self or other referencing sometimes self-correct when these other factors are successfully addressed. Therefore, it's generally more useful to address these issues first (i.e., if self/other confusion is present, changing self/other referencing will be ambiguous).