The Mind of a Coach: Reframing

When a person feels stuck and a problem seems insurmountable, it helps to verbally reframe the issue. The idea of “reframing” may sound odd, but it’s a technique that has been adopted from the field of photography. It simply means to look at something from a different angle, as a photographer would, which often changes the meaning.

Good coaches are very good at reframing. They hone the skill of being able to look at issues in different ways. Clients work with coaches for many different reasons and appreciate their reframing skill.  A client’s priority may be to grow and develop their capacities and skills, or to become better leaders, for example. Often, they go to a coach because they are stuck in some way and need help in finding a solution or seeing an issue differently.

Think of an example in your own experience where you were going round and round in your head over some problem. Then one day you discussed it with a friend or neighbor, and something they said, from their point of view, made the solution clear.

I recently had such an experience myself. During Covid, with gyms and exercise classes closed down, I decided to join a water aerobics group at my neighborhood pool. (I have a bad back so what I do has to fit my limitations.) The problem is that I was the only one committed to showing up. Sometimes I would find myself alone in the class. The dilemma that needed a reframe was that I did not see any good choices. I couldn’t force people to show up. Covid and my back limited other community options. Being alone in the pool seemed unwise for several really good reasons. And so on! I was complaining to a neighbor and she simply said, “The pool has video. Have you thought of asking the gate guard to look out for you when you are there alone?” Bingo! I had spent weeks circling the problem and one reframe solved it.

This was certainly not an earth-shaking issue, and I don’t mean to diminish the serious problems of others. But it does illustrate that the human brain cannot hold all information at once, and we often need input from others to have our brains reconfigure and make other connections. There is a reason we are social animals. We need each other to function effectively.  

Reframing is just one tool a good coach can use, but it is one of the central ones for successful coaching. If you want to practice the skill yourself, listen closely to someone, think about how you would view their problem or situation for yourself, and perhaps think of something you read or experienced with others. And when you have a moment of clarity or a different way of seeing the problem or situation, try a reframe. The more you practice, the better you will get!

This is one post on a series on coaching. It is number 2. Number 3 will be posted next.

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