In this NLP Practitioner article we are going to talk about Reframing, is an extremely useful skill for you to acquire and something we teach in detail at our Live NLP Practitioner Training. Let’s take a look at what Reframing is all about:

NLP Practitioner

NLP Practitioner

It’s a natural process that we all go through in terms of how we seek to make sense of the world. We attribute meaning to everything that we encounter and every experience that we have. Initially, as we are growing up, the frames we use are fluid but as we get older they start to become fixed. And by the time most of us are adults we have developed habitual ways of thinking about things. Some of these frames -viewpoints and perspectives that arise from beliefs we have about the world and our place in it – serve us well, allowing us to achieve our outcomes and live our lives to the full. But not always. Sometimes the frames we have developed limit us, and prevent us from having what we want.

We might believe, for instance, that only people who have achieved a certain level of education can be successful. In fact, we don’t even believe such things, we come to accept them as true.

In life, nothing is intrinsically good or bad, positive or negative. Events or experiences don’t, of themselves, have any meaning whatsoever, they have only the meaning we give to them. That meaning is determined to a large degree by the frame in which we perceive it. When the frame changes so does the meaning, and our response to it – the way we feel and how we act.

In NLP, this is called reframing, an important technique you can use with yourself and with others to free them from the shackles of rigid thinking and to therefore have more choices.

At its simplest, reframing involves seeing things from a different perspective, in another light, from an alternative point of view. Reframing isn’t something that NLP invented. It’s something that most of us do on occasion, for example, seeing the funny side when it rains just after we’ve hung the washing out to dry, or looking back and realizing that being made redundant had actually been a good thing since it opened up new avenues. Reframing can be used consciously and deliberately, making it extremely valuable in everything from coaching and other aspects of business to therapy and personal development. By asking a question or making a comment that invites someone to see things from a different perspective, the way they feel about it can be changed in a moment.

One thing that’s important to understand is that reframing isn’t about taking a rose-tinted view that everything is wonderful. The aim is to achieve a more realistic perspective on reality. Reframes have to make at least as much sense to people as the way they thought about things before, and they have to match their view of reality.

At the NLP Practitioner level we look at two different types of reframing – context reframing and meaning reframing. At Master Practitioner we go on and explore the elegant Sleight of Mouth reframing techniques.

What is the difference between a “Context” and a “Content” reframe? 

Meaning reframe (content reframe)

Meaning reframing, also sometimes called content reframing, is essentially what we’ve been discussing so far. There’s nothing wrong with the stimulus – what actually happens – it’s the response that’s the problem. So you’re not looking to change the event or behavior, only the meaning that’s attributed to it.

Meaning reframing is useful where, in Meta-Model terms, there is a cause-and-effect or complex equivalence relationship, such as ‘I get frustrated when I have to wait’.

Humour is a great, natural way of content reframing. Jokes usually start with a particular frame and end with some kind of twist in the tale, which is really a reframe. Advertising is full of reframing. Using a certain brand of aftershave or perfume is supposed to mean the wearer is sexy or attractive. Politics arguably provides the best example of all. Politicians continually reframe the topics they debate in order to win support for their argument. Unemployment figures down on the previous month, for instance, can be presented as a healthy sign for the future or an insignificant reduction in relation to the large number of people who are still without a job.

Context reframe

The starting point in context reframing is the presupposition that every behaviour is useful and appropriate in some context. Pushing someone over will get you shunned by polite society and could save your life if you’re attacked in the street. Procrastination may mean you’ll never write that best seller, but what if you put off smoking a cigarette when you’re trying to give up?

The secret to context refraining is to ask questions along the lines of ‘When would this behavior be valuable?’ Asking this question allows the person to recognize that what they’re doing is simply a behaviour. They can then go on to explore the context.
Recognizing the difference

It can be tricky at first recognizing the difference between context and meaning reframing, because the distinction is rather subtle, so here’s a simple summary:

• Identifying where or in what situation a behaviour or event would be useful is context reframing.

• Attributing a specific meaning to a behaviour or event is meaning reframing.


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