How Powerful is Reframing?
I recently returned from Seattle, where I held a Coaching Beyond the Team workshop for Agile Coaches, ScrumMasters, Team Leads, and Managers. Among the many topics covered, we explored how reframing negative labels can improve relationships and open up new possibilities.
There’s one particular story I want to share with you, as an example of how powerful reframing can be.
One of our participants had a particularly difficult time trying to reframe the person she most needed work with. She was stuck. “This guy is a bully,” she declared. “I can’t make that positive, not even neutral.”
Problem is, once someone has been labeled as a bully, you’ve pretty much limited your own responses to fight or flight. “Tell me what he does,” I prompted.
After hearing her description, it became clear. “He only knows how to use one kind of power,” I said. Her surprised expression turned hopeful as she quickly began to see more positive options other than confrontation, or giving in.
Reframing is incredibly powerful…and easy to do.
Here’s a quick exercise you can try. Feel free to share it with others in your work place.
1. What words do you use to describe the situations and people you work with? Is there a situation, or a team-mate, co-worker, or manager that brings up negative labels in your mind? Write those labels down.
2. Jot down a few words about what your relationship is like now. Is the quality of the relationship sufficient for you to accomplish what you need to get done?
Now, imagine what might be different if you replace your negative labels with neutral labels…or even positive labels? How might your relationship improve? What might become possible that seems impossible now?
3. Now, go back to your negative labels. Shift each label into neutral language (for example, “mired in minutia” might become “precise and thorough”). Challenge yourself to see how that quality might be beneficial, and state it as a positive (continuing with our example: “able to focus on fine detail with great accuracy”).
Write down your new set of labels, and remind yourself of them whenever you work with this person or situation. And remind yourself of the benefits you described in Step 2.
Try it out for yourself and you’ll see how shifting to a neutral or positive point of view helped you to influence better outcomes.
PS. Don’t miss my workshop in Sweden, Coaching beyond the team, May 11-12.