We admit it. A lot of our articles have been geared toward telling leaders how they can help facilitate a better company culture. Today we are going to address everyone. That’s because everyone can learn to reframe: executives, middle management, team leaders, entry level employees, temps and interns. In fact, the more people learn to reframe, the happier everyone in your company will be.
What is reframing?
Reframing is expanding one’s perception to understand things in more than one way. It enhances our mental capacity for sustained well-being, and like any skill – it gets easier, and becomes automatic with practice. While feeling better is often the result of reframing, the intent behind it is to grow in our awareness of the many possibilities beyond our initial interpretation of an event.
What isn’t reframing?
Rationalizing is not reframing. Rationalization is often used to help one feel better about committing an act they know to be wrong (e.g. “I didn’t steal all of the pens” or “I could have called him a lot worse”). Its effect is temporary and doesn’t lead to the long-term positive changes that accompany reframing. Rationalizing is not so much a skill, but a reaction.
According to psychology blogger and author David McRaney:
“Reframing is one of those psychological tools that just plain works. It’s practical, simple, and with practice and repetition it often leads to real change in people with a variety of thinking problems.”
That convinced us. Hopefully, it convinced you too.
How do I learn to reframe?
We’re glad you asked!
- Maintain the awareness that your initial interpretation of an event is probably wrong, or not entirely accurate.
- Consider that even if it does contain truth, you are likely looking at it from a very limited vantage point.
- Ponder other possible ways to see the same event in a different light without disregarding the facts. These ideas will become your reframes.
Although reframing does allow for some “creative license,” any additional perspectives we create should fall within the realm of possibility, and be believable.
Are you ready to go to work?
We mean that literally. You are now walking into work. Your boss glares at you in a way that causes you to feel uncomfortable. You know she hates you, or she wouldn’t keep looking at you like that. You are so sick of dealing with this everyday. You don’t have to deal with this shit. That’s it. You had enough. As soon as it’s break time you’re going straight to indeed.com. You can’t wait to kiss her sourpuss goodbye.
Let’s reframe this. What are the other possibilities for why your boss looks at you that way?
- She had Taco Bell for lunch.
- That’s just the way she looks when she’s not smiling.
- In her mind, she is saying “hi” and is offended that you don’t exchange a similar glare with her.
Now, see how easy that was. Would you know at the moment of reframing which one of these possibilities is most accurate? Probably not. But you also wouldn’t know if your initial interpretation of the event was accurate either.
A common question we get after telling this story goes something like this, “What if my boss really is giving me dirty looks, and all the reframing I’m doing is wrong?”
To that we say, “Then at least it was your boss who was miserable all this time, and not you!”
What was really going on here?
The above story and reframing examples were loosely based on a real-life work scenario. The correct answer is the second one, that’s just the way she looks when she’s not smiling. The first answer may have been true too, but we never asked her about her bowel habits.
The point is this poor woman’s default face had the appearance of a grumpy disposition. Those who chose not to question their initial assumptions and reframe the situation put themselves on an unnecessary emotional rollercoaster ride each morning.
This particular reframe was easily tested. Stepping back and watching how the boss interacted with others on their way through the doors led keen observers to quickly discover that she looked at everyone that way as they entered the building – even her known favorites. That was simply her default face. Of course, we had to ask her about this anyway – being advocates of corporate transparency and all.
Now we’re going to walk you through another workplace scene. You’re pregnant. You are worried that your job won’t be the same once you return from maternity leave. You think they might be looking for an excuse to get rid of you. You see one of your coworkers texting as you go to take a seat next to her. She immediately stops and slips her phone in her pocket. She acts a little awkward.
A couple of hours later you walk into the employee lounge while two of your fellow employees are talking. They stop. After a brief silence they start small talking with you. You keep noticing this kind of odd behavior from others.
You’re pissed. You walk into your supervisor’s office to tell him your concerns. He gives you vague answers, but tries to assure you that everything is fine. You don’t believe him. You notice that he’s acting weird too.
Time for a reframe. What are some possibilities?
- You consider that you’re just overreacting to things. You’ve heard this happens to some people while they’re pregnant.
- You decide your co-workers are indeed acting weird, and they are definitely hiding something from you. Since you don’t know what they are hiding, perhaps it’s not as bad as you think.
You just made some good reframes. Stepping back and pondering these other possibilities gives you enough strength and positivity to stick it out for the rest of the day.
It was a surprise. Immediately after the shift, the entire department put on a surprise baby shower. Now that explains everything.
Don’t bad things really happen?
Yes, bad things do happen. Reframing isn’t about living a life of denial. On the contrary, positive reframes are often closer to the truth. We’re not claiming that you never have anything to be concerned about. Nevertheless, as we continue to practice reframing we discover that so many of our anxieties at work and elsewhere are merely the result of exaggerations, wild guesses, faulty assumptions, and our emotional reactions to them.
Now that we know all about reframing situations at the jobsite, let’s go ahead and and reframe work itself. Assuming you have a few best friends at work, you can reframe work as a place to spend time with your best friends while also taking care of other important things.
Additional resources on reframing:
- 30 Positive Reframes: How to Start Changing Your Perspective on Life
- How to turn your fears and anxieties into positivity and productivity with cognitive reframing
- Reframing – from changingminds.org, the largest site in the world about changing how we think
Reframe some of your own workplace situations and share them in the comments below!
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