To reframe is to intentionally change one's perspective on events. For example, when someone comments on your weight, and your weight is within reasonable bounds, reframing can convert your experience from feeling criticized to questioning how anyone could say anything so unhinged from reality. Instead of offense or pain, the reframer might experience puzzlement or curiosity.
Reframing helps in many situations, but we focus on it here because it's the second R of a 3-R sequence for dealing with hurtfully dismissive remarks. Here are some reframes for hurtful dismissiveness.
- It's about the offender, not the target
- Dismissive comments involve at least two and possibly more people. The first is the offender — the person who delivers the dismissive comment. The second is the target, who often overlooks the offender's role and that of the other people involved — the witnesses.
- Out of negligence, anger, malice, or something else, offenders say hurtful things. Some want to impress the witnesses; some want to impress themselves. The hurtful comment often reveals more about the offender than about the target.
- Misunderstanding can be willful
- Targets of To reframe is to intentionally
change one's perspective
on eventsdismissive comments such as "You're making way too much of it," or "Don't be so sensitive," often feel an urge to justify their perspective. They assume that the offender doesn't understand. Maybe so, but rarely.
- Sometimes the offender has adopted a pretense of misunderstanding, or a pretense of having another view, hoping thereby to manipulate the target into accepting the offender's perspective as legitimate. Targets who can reframe the offender's stance as manipulative might then arrive at a more useful understanding of the dismissive comment.
- You're responsible for your feelings
- Offenders can't make targets feel any particular emotion. What actually happens is that the targets use the dismissive comment to enable themselves to feel what they feel. Usually, they feel bad.
- Targets who recognize that they're the authors of their own feelings are more likely to be able to control their responses to dismissive comments. They can choose something other than pain, such as wonderment or amusement or curiosity.
- Offenders' motives vary
- Among those who intentionally inflict pain on others, motives vary. Some want to advance their own status in the organization; some want to fluster the target; some seek revenge for real or imagined past harm. Others inflict pain because of a compulsion; or they seek a sense of dominance; or they want to make others feel as bad as they do.
- Understanding the motives of offenders can be helpful to anyone who seeks an end to the offender's behavior. View each incident as additional data that can help in that effort.
Finally, targets can reframe the fact of the presence of offenders in their lives. They can see these relationships as sources of opportunities to practice reframing. First in this series Next in this series Top Next Issue
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More articles on Effective Communication at Work:
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guess a dog's mood, even though dogs can't speak. Perhaps what's more amazing is that it's so difficult
to guess a person's mood, even though humans can speak.
- Can You Hear Me Now?
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quickly turn to war. Here are some tips for hearing your conversation partner and for conveying the
message that you actually did hear.
- Shining Some Light on "Going Dark"
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- The Paradox of Carefully Chosen Words
- When we take special care in choosing our words, so as to avoid creating misimpressions, something strange
often happens: we create a misimpression of ignorance or deceitfulness. Why does this happen?
See also Effective Communication at Work and Conflict Management for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming June 7: Toxic Disrupters: Tactics
- Some people tend to disrupt meetings. Their motives vary, but they use techniques drawn from a limited collection. Examples: they violate norms, demand attention, mess with the agenda, and sow distrust. Response begins with recognizing their tactics. Available here and by RSS on June 7.
- And on June 14: Pseudo-Collaborations
- Most workplace collaborations produce results of value. But some collaborations — pseudo-collaborations — are inherently incapable of producing value, due to performance management systems, or lack of authority, or lack of access to information. Available here and by RSS on June 14.
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