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what is reframing? on this page on other pages
Reframing is altering the meaning or value of something, by altering its context or description

Reframing is a powerful change stratagem. It changes our perceptions, and this may then affect our actions. But does changing our symbolic representation of the real world actually change anything in the real world itself?

Reframing the Creative Dimensions

Hedonic Framing / Reframing

Reframing in business

Reframing in NLP

Reframing books

Patterns of change


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Reframing the Creative Dimensions

veryard projects > change > change patterns > reframe > creativity

Kolb describes the four basic creative dimensions as Meaning, Value, Relevance and Fact. This is summarized in the diagram above. In these terms, reframing is altering Meaning, Value, Relevance or Fact by altering context or perspective.
creative dimensions: meaning, fact, value and relevance

Creative Dimensions (after Kolb)

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Hedonic Framing / Reframing

veryard projects > change > change patterns > reframe > hedonic

Hedonic framing involves a preference-based choice among different ways of describing the same situation. It explains this choice in terms of some pleasure/pain or other utility function.

Jon Elster indicates two possible examples of this:
People edit gambles in a way that would make the prospects appear most pleasant (or least unpleasant)
The would-be minimizer of charitable donations compares the fairness mechanism and the utilitarian mechanism and settles for the one that allows him to donate as little as possible, consistent with his need to retain his self-respect.

source [Elster 1999] p 39
more Pleasure Principle
Corruption - Bribery or Seduction

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Reframing in Business

veryard projects > change > change patterns > reframe > business

In business, every cheap huckster salesman uses reframing (and visualization) when he says "Picture yourself owning this, the envy of your neighbours." In other words, the goal is no longer merely to cut the grass efficiently.
How does the ‘visionary’ leader impart her strategic vision to the organization?
Giving a new value to a product by finding a new market/context.
Changing the mission statement (transport, not railroads).
A certain computer manufacturer [IBM] would have been vulnerable to accusations of monopoly power (leading to trust-busting measures) had it announced its dominant share of the computer mainframe market. Instead, it claimed a smaller share of the total office equipment market. (Note: the sequel.)

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Reframing in NLP

veryard projects > change > change patterns > reframe > NLP

Neuro-Linguistic Programming was developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, based largely on the therapeutic practices of Milton Erikson and Virginia Satir.  There are strong links to the thinking of Gregory Bateson and his associates (which included Haley and Watzlawick).

NLP operates at several logical levels: as a therapy or self-therapy practice (for which training courses and popular books are widely available) and as a modelling process.

Bandler & Grinder identify two forms of reframing: meaning and context. Context reframing takes an undesired attribute and finds a different situation where it would be valuable. In meaning reframing, you take an undesired attribute and find a description where the attribute takes on a positive value.

Reframing - Virginia Satir

A classic example of a reframe by Virginia Satir concerns a father who complains at the stubbornness of his daughter. This results in a double reframe, in which Satir points out two things to the father:
  1. There are situations where she will need stubbornness, to protect herself or achieve something. Reframing switches to a context that makes the stubbornness relevant.
  2. It is from the father himself that she has learned to be stubborn. By forcing the father to equate his own stubbornness with hers, this creates a context in which he either has to recognize the value of her stubbornness, or deny the value of his own.

Reframing - Milton Erikson

One of the common challenges of family therapy is to help the parents to let their children go. Independence is of course a negative goal. The parents have to gradually stop supporting their children, and the children have to gradually stop relying on their parents.

Milton Erikson often used the approach of creating an alternative goal for the parents: of preparing themselves to be grandparents. In a typical case, a young woman consulted him; her parents had used their life savings to build an extension to their house, where she was to live, when she got married (At this time, she was away at college, and had no steady boyfriend.) Erikson met the parents, and congratulated them for their willingness to participate so actively in the rearing of their (hypothetical) grandchildren, having babies crying through the night, toddlers crawling through the living rooms, toys strewn across the house, babysitting. He thus created a powerful positive image of the joys of grandparenthood; yet for some reason, the couple decided to rent the extra rooms out to mature lodgers instead, and save the money to support their grandchildren’s education. When the daughter subsequently got married, she lived in a city some distance away with husband and baby, and the grandparents visited frequently, but not too frequently.

Why does this example count as reframing, rather than replacement? The alternative goal created by Erikson was not an alternative activity for the parents; it was an alternative description of the same activity. This alternative description enabled the parents to rethink their goals for themselves.
more Milton Erikson

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Reframing Books

veryard projects > change > change patterns > reframe > books

Richard Bandler & John Grinder, Reframing: NLP and the transformation of meaning  (Moab Utah: Real People Press, 1982)
Jay Haley, Uncommon Therapy: The psychiatric techniques of Milton H Erikson MD  (2nd ed, New York: W.W.Norton, 1986)
Richard Normann, Reframing Business (2001)

book Several books offer reframing on a single topic. I found all these on Amazon.
  • Business, Organizational Culture, Organizations
  • Conflict, Debate, Deforestation, International Development
  • Abstract Expressionism, Culture, Japanese Cinema, Realism
  • Consciousness, Religious Life
  • Education, Educational Policy, The Early Childhood Curriculum
  • Health, Women's Health, Resistance, The Body, The Boundaries of Sex
  • The Frame of Reason, The Rules of Competition
  • St Paul, Rembrandt
  • America, The Renaissance, The Sun
One book offers a package deal in reframing: Religion, Culture, Education, Sexuality, Class, Race, Politics, and the Economy. Whew!

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Last updated on November 5th, 2003
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