Reframing for Problem Solving (To See Things Differently)

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.

What is Reframing? How Is It Useful?

Reframing is seeing the current situation from a different perspective, which can be tremendously helpful in solving problems, making decision and learning. When people get stuck in a recurring issue, for example in a complex situation or in solving a complex problem, it is rarely because they are missing a certain step-by-step procedure to fix things. Instead, it is often because they are stuck in how they see situation.

For example, a person might be working hard to find a good time management course, because he has signed up for many courses but they rarely seem to improve how he spends his time. If, instead, he closely examines the causes of his time-management problem, he might find that the real problem is that he is never implementing any of the suggestions made during those courses. He has reframed what the solution to his problem really is.

The aim of reframing is also to shift one’s perspective to be more empowered to act – and hopefully to learn at the same time. Also, many times, merely reframing one’s perspective on a situation can also help people change how they feel about the situation, as well. Many fields 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.

When working to reframe perspective on a situation, consider the following basic guidelines. Keep in mind that, even though the following examples are about another person’s comments, you can use the guidelines to shift your own perspectives, as well.

Shift from passive to active voice

For example, if the other person said, “I just can’t seem to get past this,” you might respond, “What is one small step you might take?”

Shift from negative feeling to positive feeling

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?”

Shift from past to future voice

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, how would you be speaking that would be successful?”

Shift from future to past voice

For example, if the other person said, “I can’t seem to 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?”

Shift from focusing on others to oneself

For example, if the other person said, “They don’t seem to like me,” you might respond, “What do you like about yourself?”

Shift from a liability mindset 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?”

Shift from victimization viewpoint to empowerment

For example, if the other person said, “That always seems to happen to me,” you might respond, “Sometimes we even do that to ourselves. Perhaps it’d be useful to explore if you’re somehow doing that to yourself, too?”

Additional Perspectives on Reframing

Reframing
Reframing
The Reframing Matrix

Cognitive Reframing Techniques that Work
Six-Step Reframing
Why Reframing Works for Stress Management
Reframing for Mediation
Leading Through Adversity: Reframing Tips and Techniques
Chronic Illness: Stress, Suffering and Psychological Reframing
Reframing
Basic Guidelines to Reframing — to Seeing Things Differently

Also see
Appreciative Inquiry
Creativity and Innovation
Group Decision Making and Problem Solving
Inquiry and Reflection
Mental Models (scan down to "Mental Models")
Planning
Problem Solving
Questioning
Research Methods
Systems Thinking

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