Seeing and Believing: the reason for and the art of reframing your viewpoint

May 11th, 2015 by Patricia Jehle Leave a reply »


“To reframe, then, means to change the conceptual and/or emotional setting or viewpoint in relation to which a situation is experienced and to place it in another frame which fits the ‘facts’ of the same concrete situation equally well or even better, and thereby changing its entire meaning.” – Watzlawick, Weakland and Fisch (1974)

One of the most important tasks of a coach is to help the client reflect on (false) assumptions, (limiting) beliefs, problems, and negative truths. In constructivist thought, every situation can be seen from different angles in a value-free way and thus a previously unknown solution is discovered because of that new insight. Reframing is done by asking questions.

The difference between reframing and just thinking positively is great, but yet nuanced. In positive thinking the person just thinks that the situation will be better because I tell myself, “I am + positive statement”. Whereas, reframing takes the situation and looks at it realistically, but in a different light. One of my favorite examples is the thorns on the roses: Yes, they prick my husband’s fingers, but they also prevent slugs from eating the leaves and flowers without having to consider slug poison.

Here are some more examples:

  • Since that went wrong, everything else will go wrong -> Although that was a failure, I can handle failures and continue, as I have had successes before and have the capacity for more success
  • I am not going to get another job because I’m too worried during interviews   -> Being worried means I will prepare more, practice a lot, visualize the situation and then snare the job
  • We are not running away from the problem -> We are moving towards a new and not yet discovered solution
  • I’m so unconfident -> I understand my limits and can move from there as a reflective person willing to learn new things
  • People don’t listen to me -> It’s too bad Joe does not appreciate my ideas, but yesterday Mark spent fifteen minutes listening to me while I gave suggestions
  • Fundraising makes me uncomfortable -> It is unfair to keep others from the opportunity of helping for the good of society
  • The future scares me -> The future is uncertain but it is likely to be promising
  • It can’t be done in time. -> What if we staged the deliver,y or got in extra help; then we could produce an acceptable product in the timeframe.
  • It seems stupid -> It’s also stupid not to look at the situation again and see what else can be done.
  • We can argue well -> Maybe this means we can also agree well, because we are so passionate.


What I like best about reframing is that it is working with the clients fundamental way of seeing and believing so that new solutions are found from within the person. It reminds me of one of my favorite childhood poems by Shel Sivertein:


“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”


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