30 Apr How to Reframe Your Thinking
In this article we look at how to reframe your thinking, exploring a number of ways to challenge, quality check and update your own and other’s thinking habits using ‘frame intelligence’.
Does the way you think sometimes limit you? At times do you find other people’s perspectives somewhat constraining?
Many people think in ways that are disempowering to them. Often these were meanings were taken on board when we are at an age when we’re too young to make sense of things for ourselves. This is one of the ways we end up with unresourceful meanings that continually hold us back.
What is a Frame?
You and I (and all human beings) are meaning-making machines. We create, construct, and invent meaning. This process lies at the very centre of our essential nature, and shapes the quality of our life experiences.
Every moment of the day we take in information, then sort and categorise it, based on personal assumptions. We then assign each piece of information a frame of reference, which I’ll simplify here as a ‘frame’.
Your Frames Shape the Quality of Your Life
Our frames have a huge impact on how we relate with the world and how we relate with ourselves, that’s why it’s so important to know how to change your thinking.
To make meaning about something, your mind needs to contextualise what you’re experiencing, it needs to bring a context to the content.
For example, if you place criticism into a category of personal attack, then the next time you receive negative feedback say from your boss you may experience it as an attack, even if it’s not intended that way. If you experience being attacked it’s likely you’ll want to defend and that’s going to then have particular responses associated with it.
On the other hand, if you categorise criticism as feedback, you’re simply receiving information that can help you improve, showing you things you can’t see for yourself and leveraging your boss’s experience to help you be more effective at your job.
Notice how each frame will elicit an entirely different response and emotional reality.
When you categorise actions or words with a particular meaning, all of your related experiences will be shaped by that meaning.
Without a frame, things are meaningless, so the references we choose are really important, and they are also entirely subjective.
You’re In Charge
If you’ve got behaviours and emotions that aren’t working for you and are causing struggles or difficulties, behind those behaviours and emotions are meanings at play.
One of the fastest routes to changing your emotions and your behaviours is to change the meanings that are driving them in the first place. And given you are the sole decider of what things mean to you, that means the power is with you.
As an experiment, try on that you are the decision maker. Imagine you could decide what anything meant, you could decide to frame things as opportunities or problems, you could decide to frame something as nothing at all, or as the most significant thing in your life.
Are there meanings you would change? Are the meanings you have about you the most empowering you could have? What about the meanings you have about other people – are your relationships as empowered as they could be? What are your meanings about why you’re here on the planet? Do they inspire and invigorate, or are they dull and uninspirational?
All Framing Fits into Two Equations
1. THIS EXTERNAL EVENT OR BEHAVIOUR EQUALS THIS MEANING
You came late, and that means you don’t care. You raised your voice and that means you’re angry at me.
Can you see the equation? This thing we can see, touch, or experience in reality, has this particular meaning.
That’s one equation, the second is:
2. THIS EVENT CAUSES THAT
You came late that means you’re going to get fired later on. You’re raising your voice right now and you’re making me angry.. You raising your voice equals, or causes, me to get angry.
See the equation?
That’s the simplicity of framing. All meaning, all thinking can be broken down into those two equations.
When you have meanings that aren’t working for, you can break them down into one of those two equations. This allows you to bring all of the complexity of thinking into an uncomplicated bite size piece you can work with.
Now you can examine it. Does this really equal that? For example, do I want criticism to equal attack? Is that healthy for me? Is that what I want?
The frames you create however are not the only frames that can impact you.
Frames Are Subjective
Everyone is constantly making meaning about what’s going on around them, and each of us will put our own spin on things based, on personal assumptions.
For example, let’s say you don’t call your partner for a chat as you usually do during your lunch break because you’re flat out at work. They then interpret your behaviour to mean you don’t care. This is a frame they hold about what you did or didn’t do, and your behaviour is viewed and evaluated through that frame.
With everyone creating personalised, subjective frames, communication can become challenging. You may hold a different frame to your partner, but entering into a dispute using your subjective frames only creates polarity, and can also have you confirm the frame they hold.
To avoid this trap, think about what the other person may be assuming, how they may be interpreting your words and behaviours, and then reflect whether that meaning is true for you, or not.
Working With Frames
Once you start to see and understand frames, you can easily work with them.
Using the previous example, you could ask your partner directly if they assume you don’t care because you didn’t call. If they say yes, you can then clarify the true meaning behind your behaviour. As you address their assumptions, it’s important to demonstrate care and show that you can see their perspective, yet do this without agreeing that their assumed meaning is accurate.
Get In First – Pre Framing
To avoid a potential misunderstanding, another even simpler approach is to pre-frame something you think may occur. To pre-frame is to prevent assumptions occurring. This is done by clarifying what specific behaviours or words mean, or what to expect, rather than waiting for others to make assumptions of their own.
Using the earlier example again, if you know you have a busy week ahead and will be working through a few lunchbreaks, let your partner know in advance. That way if you don’t have time to call, they know why and don’t jump to any incorrect conclusions.
Pre-framing allows you to avoid having to backtrack and clarify.
Change A Frame
Just because someone is already holding a frame doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. You can always offer a reframe to reset the meaning.
To reframe, first identify the current frame someone is holding which I’ll call ‘X’. Then explain that it doesn’t have to mean X, it could mean Y – a completely different frame.
For example, a manager is avoiding having difficult conversations with other members of their and its having a detrimental impact on the workflow for the entire team. Their frame is that confrontation ruins relationships. To reframe this you can simply say “I hear you think conflicts are scary and can damage relationships, but what happens when you let problems fester and grow to be unmanageable – that’s much scarier and more damaging.”
Our frames shape our experience and understanding of life.
Now you know how to reframe your thinking, next time you notice your thinking getting in your way you now have some tools to update it, along with other tools to help you work more effectively with others.
Work With Us
Have you found these ideas valuable? Are you ready to change your limiting behaviours, develop greater self-awareness and experience a fuller life? Book your free Discovery Coaching Session now.
Written by Soo Balbi
Soo is a behavioural expert and one of Australia’s leading Developmental Coaches who helps women in tech thrive. Soo assists her clients to cut to the heart of any challenge, enabling choices and possibilities previously unavailable.