Reframing

I spent a couple of days with Charlie and Edie Seashore last week. The were in town through the local Organization Development Network.

The Seashores are elders in the arena of change, diversity, and working with groups. They are also co-authors, with Jerry Weinberg, of “What Did You Say? The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback” (a must read for anyone who ever has to give feedback to peers, subordinates, managers, family members, friends, spouses, or children – which covers most of us, I think).

Here’s one of the concepts we worked with:

We all have different frames of reference which help us navigate, but can also get in the way. When we can shift the frame, we can open up more options for approaching a situation.

Here’s the exercise.

  • Make three columns on a piece of paper.
  • In the first column, list 6 – 7 adjectives and adverbs that describe characteristics you value in yourself.
  • In the second column, list the psychological opposite of those characteristics. Don’t use “non-,” “un-” or “dis-,” come up with descriptive words, adjectives or adverbs. They don’t have to be the dictionary opposite, but the opposite for you.
  • Look at the words in the second column. How do you feel when you are acting this way?
  • In the third column, list a positive reframe of the words in the middle column. If you can’t get to a positive description, find a neutral description.

    Here’s part of my list:

    Valued characteristic —> opposite —> reframe

    smart —>dumb—> ignorant

    hard-working—> lazy —>relaxed

    persistent—>easily defeated —>cutting losses

    Two things stand out right for me:

    I can be kinder to myself when I have the option of thinking of myself in the third column vs. the second column when I’m not at my best.

    Most of us find some people “difficult.” Very often, I describe people I find challenging using words from my second column. They represent parts of myself I don’t particularly like.

    When I can think of them using a positive reframe, I have more options for the relationship.

    If you manage people who fit your middle column, try shifting to the reframe column, and see what happens.