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Reframing is seeing a particular, often current, situation from a one particular perspective, and being able to express it from a different perspective, which can be tremendously helpful in problem solving, decision making and learning. It sits another foundation skill within the RESOLVE process where it helps negative and destructive thoughts and phrases become those that are focused on achieving a positive solution and outcome.

In a learning or supportive context, reframing is helping another person to move purposefully and constructively from a situation in which they feel stuck or confused, to one where a solution seems possible, or which allows and encourages thoughts towards an alternative or less complex problem.

The aim of reframing is to shift a person’s current perspective to a more empowering one that is positive, solution focused and forward thinking, where there is the potential to act – and to learn about more possibilities at the same time.

Many times, the mere act of reframing a person’s perspective on a situation can also help them change how they feel about the situation.

Many sectors and occupational areas regularly use reframing, including therapy, coaching and even marketing and sales. Techniques of reframing can also be used to cultivate creative and critical thinking skills.

Many jokes are in fact reframes; these following images may serve to clarify the concept further.

The classic reframe is whether or not the glass is half empty or half full – it depends on how you think about it. Do you look for a problem or look for a solution?

This is an example of a very elemental reframe

Statement: I can’t do this.

Reframe – Well, maybe you haven’t spent enough time learning how yet.

An introduction to the concept of reframing is one of those areas that typically takes learners through the first two stages of 4 levels of learning model. The following examples help the formation of a reframe: in terms of skill development, practise will help you become consciously competent. Bear in mind that, even though these examples are about another person’s comments, you can use the examples to help you reframe elements of your own internal self talk.

There are many different areas or topics where the process can be applied:

Moving from the passive to active

For example, if the other person said, “I really doubt that I can do anything about this,” you might respond, “What is one small step that you might be able to take?”

Moving from negative feelings to positive feelings

For example, if the other person said, “I don’t want to work on that now because it makes me feel sad,” you might respond, “What small part of that might you work on for now, that might even leave you feeling a bit more happy?”

Moving from historic beliefs to future potential

For example, if the other person said, “I’ve never been good at public speaking,” you might respond, “If you imagined yourself to be successful at public speaking, what topic would you feel most comfortable talking about?”

Transferring from future problems to past successes

For example, if the other person said, “I just can’t get started on achieving this goal,” you might respond, “Has there been a time in the past when you achieved a goal and, if so, what did you do back then to be successful? How might you use that approach now?”

Moving from 3rd party perspective to 1st person acceptance

For example, if the other person said, “They don’t seem to like me,” you might respond, “What do you know are your greatest strengths, what do you do most well?”

Shift from a liability to an asset

For example, if the other person said, “I’m such a perfectionist,” you might respond, “How might being a perfectionist help in your job and life, though?”

Moving from being a victim to a state of empowerment or control

For example, if the other person said, “I always come out second best,” you might respond, “Sometimes we get into specific habits, and have engrained trains of thought, where we have come to expect less of ourselves. Perhaps it’d be useful to explore if you too are somehow doing that to yourself?”

Why is this important to us as those who support the development of others?

“A positive attitude is one of the most valuables assets a person can have in life.” John Calvin Maxwell, American author and pastor

  • For every problem, we can see an opportunity

  • Every set back is a useful piece of learning

  • Every difficulty is a new solution waiting to be discovered

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