He explained that she’d begun with “You’re no longer a team player. You’re ploughing a lone furrow” and followed it up with quite a varied list of criticisms.
Despite the shock, he’d repeated his notes back to her to prove he’d listened, but that was as far as they’d got before they’d run out of time. They agreed to meet again to allow him to respond.
In the pause between meetings, she’d told him that she felt better and that this would make the team stronger whereas he reported feeling hurt and bruised by someone he trusted and valued highly. What he really wanted to do was to treat her to some of her own medicine to see how she liked it.
This is what mediators call ‘the spark’. Left unchecked, these small frictions are often fanned into the flames of a much more serious situation.
There are a wide range of conflict-handling tools available, but in this case ‘reframing’ seemed to be the key that would unlock almost everything
So what is reframing?
Have you ever had a painting cleaned up and reframed? It’s the same painting and yet it isn’t. It has changed. You see the artwork in a different way.
In the same way, you can alter a sentence by taking a different mind-set so that whilst it says the same thing, it means something different and you receive it in a much more positive way.
We started by exploring how this client could have said it differently:
- The mind-set of “Withholding judgement and asking ” led to the reframe “Why are you taking on these big challenges all by yourself?”
- “Requesting get what you want rather than what you don’t” reframed it to “I’d like it if we could work more together as a team”
- “Assuming the most generous explanation” reframed it to “You’re normally a team player, so I know there’ll be a good reason but I’m curious as to why you’re choosing to plough your own furrow on this one?”
Just reformatting the sentences had a profound effect. He started seeing the problem from her point of view. He began exploring the assumptions he’d made.
With a fresh burst of energy he created his own set of questions and requests and became excited about some of the opportunities this was generating.
How can you use reframing to unlock some difficult situations in your business, and what different mind-sets can you use?