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:
- The Power of Presuppositions
- Presuppositions are powerful tools for manipulating others. To defend yourself, know how they're used,
know how to detect them, and know how to respond.
- The Fine Art of Quibbling
- We usually think of quibbling as an innocent swan dive into unnecessary detail, like calculating shares
of a lunch check to the nearest cent. In debate about substantive issues, a detour into quibbling can
be far more threatening — it can indicate much deeper problems.
- The True Costs of Indirectness
- Indirect communications are veiled, ambiguous, excessively diplomatic, or conveyed to people other than
the actual target. We often use indirectness to avoid confrontation or to avoid dealing with conflict.
It can be an expensive practice.
- Long-Loop Conversations: Clearing the Fog
- In virtual or global teams, conversations can be long, painful affairs. Settling issues and clearing
misunderstandings can take weeks instead of days, or days instead of hours. Here are some techniques
that ease the way to mutual agreement and understanding.
- When Over-Delivering Makes Trouble
- When responding to inquiries such as "Is that correct?" we sometimes err by giving too many
reasons why it's incorrect. Patterns of over-delivery can lead to serious trouble. Here's how.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 17: Overt Belligerence in Meetings
- Some meetings lose their way in vain attempts to mollify a belligerent participant who simply will not be mollified. Here's one scenario that fits this pattern. Available here and by RSS on October 17.
- And on October 24: Conversation Irritants: I
- Conversations at work can be frustrating even when everyone tries to be polite, clear, and unambiguous. But some people actually try to be nasty, unclear, and ambiguous. Here's Part I of a small collection of their techniques. Available here and by RSS on October 24.
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- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.