Reframing; moving the picture frame for a different view.

May 20th, 2014

Reframing-for-resilience-200x300Reframing is a really useful technique that can be used to good effect in workplace mediation and conflict management. It is a tool to help parties to view things in a different way, to open up different view points or to get a different picture.

In the context of mediation positive reframing is where the mediator restates a party’s (usually negative) statements or points of view in more neutral or positive language but without changing the meaning. Restating helps parties to appreciate that you have listened and understood them, but when restated in more neutral terms, it can also encourage them to appreciate how others may view things. It also shifts the focus from the person to the behaviour concerned.

Positive reframing may also help to identify the gap that exists between the two opposing viewpoints and identify the issue that needs to be resolved. This can help to focus on what the future solutions might be.

To demonstrate; think of a current irritation or moan and then try to reframe this as a more positive statement. An example could be “my husband is really irritating” which could be reframed as “you would like to understand what it is about what he says and does that try’s your patience“! You can have some fun with this; try it at home.

I recently heard an analogy for reframing as being like a picture frame which can be moved around so that when the frame is moved you see a different part of the picture. The frame defines what you look at and how you see the picture; move the frame and another picture emerges. This got me thinking about how this relates to how we tend to respond in a conflict situation and how mediation works to resolve disputes.

  • In mediation who is right and who is wrong is irrelevant, in my view there is no such thing and it is all a question of each person having a different perspective; both of which is the truth to them. They are looking at the same picture but the frames are in different places and so they see different things.
  • Individuals who find themselves in a conflict situation often take up fixed positions or viewpoints and they struggle to see the wider picture or a appreciate a different aspect. They struggle in this analogy to move the frame.
  • The role of the mediator (or other person helping to resolve conflict) is to encourage the parties to open their eyes to a different part of the picture or maybe to a larger part of the picture. By altering the picture frame we have a chance of seeing a different view-point.
  • The fixed view of the picture could also impact on the frame of mind. Change the view and this may also alter the attitude which again could open up new possibilities for resolution.

Like most things reframing is a skill that gets easier the more you practice it. When ever you are seeking to help others resolve conflict try reframing so that you can help others to move their frame and see a different picture, it may well help to get a fuller picture and greater understanding.


« All posts

Leave a Reply


The report was very professional, it dealt with all the issues raised and was particularly thorough. It clearly took the time to fully understand all of the issues and background. It was complex but the report really helped to break it down and I’m hoping we can progress in a positive manner following the recommendations.

Group HR Manager, Energy Sector |

More Testimonials »

Latest from the Blog

View all blog articles »

Featured Case Studies

Group Conflict – Conflicts between teams

It is not uncommon for conflict to arise between different teams. This can have considerable impact on both individuals and performance. A number of approaches can be used in this sort of scenario, including neutral assessment, team facilitation and group mediation.

Read more »

Conflict Coaching – Shareholder/Director dispute

Agreement could not be reached to enter into mediation in this situation and therefore coaching was an alternative support provided to one of the parties. The relationship between a majority shareholder and a shareholder/director was causing conflict. The relationship would be ok at times but disagreements would flare up from time to time and this was beginning to impact on the business.

Read more »

View all case studies »