!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Ways of Reframing

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ways of Reframing

The topic of reframing has come up in several previous posts. Now that I've finally read Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most — I've had the book on my shelf since shortly after it was published in 1999 — I'd like to note what authors Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen (SPH) have to say on the subject of reframing. (All three are associated with the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.)

In a section called "You Can Reframe Anything" (pp. 204-205), SPH identify five types of statement that generally benefit from reframing. The examples below are adapted from those SPH offer.
  1. One side of the conversation claims to have a monopoly on the truth: "I know what's true here, and there are no two ways about it."

    Reframe: "I want to make sure I understand your perspective. I can see you feel strongly about it. I'd also like to explain my perspective."

  2. One side of the conversation accuses the other of bad intentions: "You deliberately caused me a serious problem."

    Reframe: "I can see you're feeling angry about what I did. I didn't intend to cause a problem. Can you tell me more about the impact of what happened?"

  3. One side of the conversation blames the other: "This problem is all your fault."

    Reframe: "I'm sure I contributed to the problem. I think we both have. Rather than focus on whose fault this is, I'd like just to look at how we got here — at what we each contributed to the situation."

  4. One side of the conversation is judgmental: "You are always making hasty decisions without any concern for other people."

    Reframe: "It sounds like you're feeling stressed by the difficulty we're facing. It certainly is upsetting."

  5. One side of the conversation says the other is an inadequate person in some way or another: "You're simply incompetent when it comes to keeping projects on track."

    Reframe:"I think we disagree about how this snag should be handled. Since the options are difficult to sort out, that's not surprising. The question is whether we can work together to figure out how to address both of our concerns."
The key point illustrated by these examples is that keeping your eye on the goal of achieving a constructive outcome from your conversation will help you choose an appropriate way to reframe a less-than-constructive stance taken by the other party. What you're aiming for first and foremost is a good resolution to the problem, along with maintenance of good working relations.


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