Reframing is a technique to consider an issue as currently seen by deliberately taking a different perspective. Reframing can be broken down into two types – content and context.
The content of a situation is the meaning that is given to it. The content of what you are saying has a cause and effect structure.
Making a mess of that presentation means I am useless at presenting.
This statement is also a generalisation, because taken in isolation the statement implies that from one single presentation a judgment can be made. When clients make comments like this I have found it helpful to ask questions like:
- According to whom?
- What might be useful about this experience?
- How else could you describe your behaviour in this situation? What can you learn from this experience?
- How would you advise someone who had just given the presentation you did?
- What did you do well?
The whole point is to help you to consider the positive aspects of your own behaviour, to look at the situation from a whole range of different perspectives that may change the way you view the meaning you have given to it.
The context of a situation or event is about where it occurs. It is a simple fact that any experience, event or behaviour has different implications depending on where it occurs.
You might say:
- ‘I spent so much time on the detail that I just didn’t get it finished in time
- I’m just too detail conscious!’
This statement focuses on the negative aspect of a particular behaviour but there will be times when being detail conscious serves you well. A useful way of reframing this might be to ask:
- When might being detailed be helpful for you?
- Where could you use this skill in the future?
These questions get you to focus on times when and where attention to detail is important. It can then help you to respond in a more positive way to what you see as a negative behaviour.
This tool works well to:
- Recognise which essential attitude best assists resolving a problem
- Re-define problems by taking a different perspective
- Find solutions to difficult issues
Using this tool
This reframing tool is designed for self-use. You need to be disciplined in your application and make sure that you give yourself new answers. If you are working with a coach, reframing is most often done using questions. I include some common reframing questions as well at the end of this template. First, I recommend using the Five Attitudes Approach.
Reframing using the Five Attitudes Approach
Get six pieces of paper or card and write on them the following:
1. The Problem
2. Respect the OTHER person’s model of the world
3. The meaning of your communication is the RESPONSE you get back
4. People are NOT their behaviours
5. People CAN change anything
6. There is NO failure, only feedback
- Lay the cards on the floor.
- Choose someone who works with you or with whom you have a difficult relationship. Stand on the “Problem” card.
- Describe the problem using the following questions:
- What is the problem?
- What are the consequences of the problem for me?
- What are the implications for others around me?
- How does the problem make me feel? How do I experience that feeling? Can I describe it to me?
- What impact does the problem have on my performance?
- Now, which of the 5 “Attitudes” would best assist in solving this problem?”
- Stand on the most appropriate “Attitude” card and considers the problem from that new attitude.
- Consider the problem ACTING AS IF this attitude were true.
- “Looking at the problem from this attitude what options do you have?”
- “What will the pay-offs be for adopting this new attitude?”
- Now you have a new approach to the problem.
Test the problem with each of the five attitudes, always acting as if this attitude were true.
One or more of these attitudes will offer a possible solution.
We have yet to come across a problem that does not change after genuinely reframing the problem using one or more of these five attitudes. Actually, there are exceptions: problems that do not involve people in any way, which isn’t many.
Our normal world view tends to view problems as, well, problems. We have our view and often get caught up in the emotion of doing something about the problem (ignoring the problem is still doing something about it).
Take time with each and every problem you come across. Deliberately choose one of these attitudes. I recommend deliberately shifting your body to take a different view. ACT as if the attitude is true. Consider the problem in just the same manner as this exercise.
Reframing using Questions
Whatever your issue or obstacle, ask yourself any (or all!) of these questions:
- Does the problem lie in the task itself, or the way you feel about the task?
- What “rules” do you have for yourself that could be changed?
- What is the positive in this experience?
- If you were already a successful businessman, how would you go about this?
- What would your role model do in this situation?
- What would your coach say about this situation?
- What resources do you have to assist you here?
- What else could this situation mean?
- How can you learn from this?
- What did you learn from this?
- What other ways could you look at this?
- What will this help you accomplish in the future?
- What would your best friend do in this situation?
- What else have I been afraid of but accomplished anyway?
- What is another way to go about this?
- What could you do differently?
- Who would help you with this?
- What is one small thing you could do right now?
- How can I communicate this differently?
- How can a cool company find me to work for them?
- How has this helped you to move closer to your desired outcome?
- If your best friend was in this situation, what would you advise her to do?
- How you make this task/event/situation fun?
- What other direction can you now try?
- So what now?
- I know you do not know, but if you did?