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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert

Have you ever told yourself, "That okay. It was a good learning experience." when something didn’t go the way you planned it? What you've done was apply a technique called "reframing." People who use reframing are typically more successful and happier in life.

Reframing is a commonly used technique to shift perspectives - usually from a negative and limiting thought or view of a situation, towards one that is more helpful and empowered. For example, seeing failure as an opportunity to learn, and viewing a problem as an opportunity. My personal favourite is to not see home repairs as a cost, but as an investment.

As a coach, I feel the greatest satisfaction and fulfillment when I can help my clients recognize and adopt a more empowered perspective. In an earlier blog post, I shared my belief that our thoughts are the most consequential in the trio of Thought-Emotion-Behaviour. Managing our thoughts is a powerful skill to have and will serve us in many situations in life, and reframing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to do this.


Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

Here are 2 effective ways to reframe:

Content reframing:

Example - "My manager hasn't accepted my request to meet with him. I bet he's getting ready to fire me."
What else might this mean? This is a basic cause and effect scenario (X caused Y), so let's look for a different cause (meaning) for the behaviour we observe. In this case, something different than our original negative meaning.

[Content reframe] "My manager hasn't accepted my request to meet with him. His Inbox must be really full after coming back from vacation."

Note that when we think negatively about the situation, our emotions and behaviours tend to follow the negative track (i.e. feel fearful, behave aggressively or become avoidant). Conversely, when we identify other meaning, this allows us to be more empathetic and be more intentional about our actions (e.g. Send a reminder to my manager).


Context reframing:

Example - "My son talks back to me, and is very stubborn."

In what situation might this be advantageous? Context reframing takes the same behaviour and places it in a different time and place. A negative thought may actually be good under different circumstances.

[Context reframe] "My son will not yield to peer pressure, and can stand up for himself."

This form of reframing is especially helpful for leaders and managers as a reminder of situational leadership - assessing the time, audience, situation in choosing what skills, knowledge and actions to use. It is also a good reminder that our setbacks are temporary, and may yield success in a different time and place.


Reframing is more than just euphemism or replacing a negative word with a positive one. It requires being open to the possibility that another perspective can be just as valid, and then believing that it can be a reality. The new perspective can change our lives by letting go of ill feelings, giving ourselves clear purpose and agency to create change. Some people can easily reframe, while others may require more time. Regardless of how quickly you can shift your perspective, there is no one more qualified to help you with this process than a coach.

Check out more blog posts in this series: Coach's Corner.