Changing the Frame

Richard ArthurAdvice

This is the latest article from Neil on expanding your mental frame. If you want to take a situation, problem, or experience, and expand your mental frame to create a new interpretation of it, read on below:

One more big idea from NLP I want to share with you…

In NLP, it’s called: Reframing.

Reframing is about taking a situation, problem, or experience, and expanding our mental frame to create a new interpretation of it.

Like a picture frame, our mental frame is often a limited perspective. So, the reflexive interpretations we make of situations tend to be narrow and self-centered…

Which can lead us down paths of action and emotion spins that are unhelpful, or even regretful.

But if we change our frame, we change the interpretation—which lets us change how we respond.

Suddenly, more powerful solutions and understandings are unlocked, that we couldn’t see at first.

As I covered last time, switching “Why” questions to “How” questions (moving from negative focus to positive resource focus) is a simple kind of reframing.

Since I’m always fascinated by human communication, let’s use another example in relationships…

When we’re upset, we don’t always say what we mean. We tend to react from past pain, rather than calmly expressing our needs in the present.

So, when our partner gets upset over something that we perceive to be tiny, our small-frame interpretation might be that they’re “crazy,” or irrational…

Which immediately makes them “wrong” and creates a combative dynamic.

Let’s say you came home late from work, and your partner was hoping for quality time. This could leave them feeling unimportant, or unloved.

Most of the time, this situation escalates into a stress-fuelled fight about who is right or wrong.

But if you reframe the behavior in the bigger picture, beyond the “me-centric” frame (ie. “This is totally unfair. I was busy meeting a deadline…”)

You could zoom out and ask yourself:

“What unmet need is causing them to feel upset?”

Or, “What is it about this situation that is poking an old wound?”

This often helps you understand and acknowledge their reaction, own your part, and explain the situation in a way that brings you back together.

When you frame their behavior in the bigger context, you’re more likely to quickly switch from seeing it as “crazy,” to seeing it as perfectly natural.

And we can ask the same questions of ourselves whenever reactivity arises.

Instead of dwelling in anger about feeling wronged, asking those questions above can help cut to the chase and see what unmet need or sensitive wound triggered our reaction.

(The next step would be to heal that wound, which you can read about here ( )