What does reframing have to do with professional wrestling? Well, let’s find out.
Reframing is the art of helping people change meaning. That can be really important, especially when you’re working with a client who has a limiting belief. For instance, a client might have a belief that they aren’t smart, because an adult told them that, as a child. That belief might be getting in the way of something they’re trying to accomplish today. So, they might come to you because they’re trying to pass the bar and they’re not able to concentrate well. It could be that they took the earlier comment by an adult as a suggestion and built a belief around it.
Beliefs can be thought of as a meaning equation. The format is usually cause/effect or straight meaning. Usually, there are two parts to the equation. Some event caused me to not be smart, or some event means I’m not smart. Here are some examples…
- “My sister got all the brains in the family.”
- “I had a fever when I was 7 and my brain didn’t develop normally.”
- “I took a test and it showed I’m not very smart.”
Looked at in equation form (I know you love equations), those statements could be seen this way.
- “There is only so much intelligence to go around. My sister got most of it and that means, I didn’t get much.”
- “I had a fever when I was 7 and that caused my brain to not develop much, and that means I’m not very smart.”
- “This test result means I’m not smart.””
Now, dismantling these limiting beliefs can help us help people change.
The Moral Challenge
There’s a moral question though. What if someone is really not smart, or their brain really didn’t develop normally? In general, it’s not a great idea to build unrealistic beliefs in people. But, even changing from “Your brain doesn’t work right” to “Your brain works differently, and so you learn differently” is a step forward. “Your brain has different strengths and weaknesses that the average brain” can be useful, too. But the general rule is, dismantle a limiting belief and help the client start building a roadmap for getting what they want. How easily they’ll get there depends on a lot of factors, but getting those beliefs out of the way really helps.
Reframing is the art of challenging those beliefs (often verbally). It’s often done in an almost subversive way 🙂
Examples of reframing the above beliefs might be, “Your sister got all the brains, who got all the livers?”, “If you’re not very smart, you probably aren’t a very good judge of how smart you are, are you?”, and “That test result means you weren’t very good at taking that test at that time.”
Now, having rapport and the right delivery when you’re reframing is key. And sometimes you’ll get a real zinger, that changes someone’s world view in an instant. More often, reframing is like chipping away at a belief and you’ll need other techniques as well as direct reframing. Reframing is a big subject. In fact, I’ve got a whole program devoted to sleight of mouth patterns, — verbal reframing. It’s such a big part of what I do.
But here’s what I want to talk about today. It’s a particular approach to reforming that I think will help you working with people, or just in everyday discussions.
And that brings us back to professional wrestling.
I was flipping through the channels one day and I stumbled on some wrestling. It was one of those moments in between matches where a couple of tag teams were arguing back and forth, via the announcer. One team was yelling a long list of insults at the other and at the end said, “You made your bed and you’re going to have to sleep in it.” As a response, one of the members of the second tag team started responding to the insults, one-by-one, and yelling insults back. The second member of that tag team remained silent until the end and then he blurted out, “And who says we even sleep in beds?”
That totally cracked me up. And it’s a technique I often use. When someone is talking and I hear a belief equation, and it is something that’s getting in the way of their goal, I often use the wrestler’s strategy. I challenge the belief equation, but in an unusual direction. After being told that he had made his bed and he’d have to lie in it, the wrestler challenged the idea that he even slept in a bed!
Often, where there’s a belief equation, there’s an obvious place to challenge it. If someone says they took a test and it means they’re not smart, you might say, “You’re very smart. You speak well and you have a good vocabulary.” But they’ve probably heard that a thousand times and have their stock answer for it.
The Unusual Challenge
Sometimes, it’s useful to give them something they haven’t heard, which challenges their belief in a new or unusual way. That often results in a brief confusion about the belief, and that’s usually a good time to throw some new idea into the mix.
Let’s look at “My sister got all the brains in the family.” Sometimes, the answer is to broaden the scope. If brains get apportioned among family members, other organs may too. “Your sister got all the brains, who got all the livers?” points out the ridiculousness of the idea. And yet, it makes sense, in terms of the theory behind the original statement. Likely (if you have rapport), a client would laugh and be slightly confused by that statement. I view that moment of confusion as if that belief’s door, which had formerly been shut, is now open a crack. It’s time to jam your foot in it and find ways to open it wider.
Now that the door is open (that’s an anther way of saying the critical factor related to that belief has been bypassed) it’s time to make an offhand statement in suggestion form, and take advantage of it.
“Well, what we’re going to do here, is to install a simple strategy that will use whatever brain or liver you have to organize information more efficiently and effectively. Let’s get started.”
Now, they don’t know what to think. I’ve opened the possibility that their old belief about not being smart could be off. I’ve also introduced the possibility that they don’t need to be smart to succeed. There are other words for this kind of confusion; open and suggestible.
A Strategy For Unusual Reframing
- First, get good at hearing and noticing belief equations.
- Then, think about what an advice you’d typically give them or what an advice columnist would suggest and eliminate that idea (that’s the obvious place to go — and they’ve probably already heard it).
- Then, look for something else and find a way to reframe it.
Let’s take a look at another one…
“I had a fever when I was 7 and my brain didn’t develop normally.” In the first statement, an advice columnist might suggest ways to cope with a brain that hasn’t developed normally. Let’s look at anything else in the statement and see if we can find something. Well, there’s an unspoken assumption that a brain not developing normally is bad. There’s also the idea that perhaps part of the brain stopped developing at 7 (that may or may not be something the client believes).
“OK. A normally developed brain isn’t really an advantage for us here. And kids are more creative and much more quickly and deeply get hypnotized. We’ll see if you respond similarly. Either way is fine. We won’t know how much of an advantage it is for you until you’ve been hypnotized, and we see how much progress you make.”
“I took a test and it showed I’m not very smart.”
How might you reframe that? Leave an answer in the comments, below.