To reframe is to see the same thing from a new view.
We take a notion and turn that notion inside out in order to see it differently, and help others see it differently, thus further open the door to possibility.
“It’s raining out! We need to stay indoors…” becomes “The garden is getting watered!” It’s not one perspective or the other – it’s both, each supported by a perspective.
Emotions give us another example. When we feel something strongly – such as sadness in parting with a loved one – we can shift how we relate to that sadness: “I will miss you…” can become “I will look forward to being with you again.”
If I enter a meeting room as the scribe assuming there will be a clear, smooth surface on which to draw, but arrive to find flip charts taped on every surface and no open wall area, I have to quickly reframe my approach. I have to figure out another strategy, such as to set up flip chart easels in a corner or tape paper onto a window. To stay present and carry out the work, I must reconfigure the conditions in my mind. “Full walls” become “Open corners.”
Getting fixated within one frame locks us into seeing only one view, where being able to reframe allows us to see things from multiple perspectives.
Another tangible example comes from a time when I went to scribe at a conference in the oil and gas industry, where there was a focus on fracking (hydraulic fracturing.) Considering myself an environmentalist, having intentionally worked with organizations on climate and species-oriented topics, I somewhat knew what I was getting myself into here – and not…
As I stood on a stage, knowing the drawings would be on display in the main hotel lobby at each break, I knew there was no “out.” And presentation after presentation on increasing sales in this area, and developing local expertise, and increasing safety on the rig sites – all to further increase investment in fracking…I just had a pit in my stomach the entire time. “How can I be supporting any of this?!” I wondered.
However, another part of me – a less judgmental, unbiased part – knew that in order to serve the room and client well, I needed to shed my assumptions, learn a bit, and reposition myself to a more neutral state. I needed to reframe my attitude, pronto.
This is not to say I became in favor of fracking during the conference, or am now. But my eyes were opened by the experience and I saw that – for as passionate as my peers and I are about sustainable energy sources – the people in this room were equally as passionate about growing their business. There was no right or wrong – only two views. And there are probably more.
In recalling this story, I realize that a need to reframe can often link to strongly held beliefs; the times that I’ve had to really switch around something in my mind almost always stem from being high on the Ladder of Inference. In order to suspend my beliefs and assumptions, I’ve had to quickly get a handle on the data of the situation and/or insight into other people’s experiences.
Getting to the data eases the ability to alter course.
Lastly, reframing can facilitate relating. If I can turn something around to see it from your view, I can understand where you might be coming from, and vice versa. If I can do this for others as a scribe, by presenting information in a new way – i.e.; crafting an arc instead of a straight line to represent horizon – the service is getting people on the same page. They have a fresh picture to look at, over which to agree or disagree, and ultimately advance their thinking.
Reframing directly correlates to seeing with fresh eyes.
As soon as we loosen one assumption, we open a window to interpretation and insight.