Glass Half Full or Half Empty: What’s in a Frame?

Imagine walking in to a room full of people that you don’t know – are they scary strangers or people you just haven’t enjoyed meeting yet?  Neither perception is true in itself, but it will set your frame of reference and that in turn will determine the way you interpret and approach that experience, the way you behave and the results you get.

That same signal (i.e. walking in to a room full of people you don’t know) will have a different meaning depending on what it’s meant to you in similar situations in the past.  Your past experiences provide you with a context for that particular signal and thus determine your behaviour.  So how we frame things depends on those past experiences and the meaning of any experience in life depends upon the frame you put around it.  In this case that’s whether your fear sends you scuttling to hide in a corner or whether you enthusiastically start mingling and making new friends.

The classic frame that people often put around me is that I’m a very ‘glass half full’ kind of person.  Hence the inspiration for the picture for this particular blog, which may also give away my love of red wine!  I certainly tend to look on the bright side and see opportunity in any challenges.  When something bad happens I’d rather laugh than cry – what’s the use of crying anyways, it just makes your face wet.  But that glass half full attitude is also something commonly associated with NLP, even to the extent that it is the picture on the front of NLP for Dummies book. 

So what is a frame in this context?  It’s essentially a frame of reference that provides a context, a focus or guidance for your thoughts and actions.  A signal only has meaning in the frame or context we perceive it.  For example, a red light is just a red light until we see it in the context of being a traffic light and therefore a stop light.  Sometimes we lock ourselves in narrow or negative frames as our past experiences filter our ability to see what is really happening around us.  Then we only see what we “expect” to see and we use the same old habitual frame – like black writing on a white page.  As a result we can keep repeating behaviours that do not support us reaching our goals and we miss seeing opportunity and possibility.

If we can instead look at something from a different point of view, a process called reframing, then we can change the way we respond to life and the way we think about an experience – after all, everything is dependent on our perception to create our world.  One of the most effective tools for personal change is learning how to put the best frame on any experience.  Let’s take a really classic example and reframe a glass that is half empty to being a glass half full, so you change the frame from negative to positive.  Reframing is crucial when learning how to communicate with yourself and others and is one of the most effective communication tools available.  The person who sets the frame is the one with the most influence. 

Reframing can give another meaning to a statement by changing the context – so you can take something bad or undesirable and reframe it by showing a great advantage in another context.  A hotel that’s falling down around your ears is suddenly far more interesting, and worthwhile visiting, when you reframe it as somewhere that Shakespeare once lived.  As we all know artful reframes can change peoples’ perceptions such that they act or feel differently about something – political spin doctors are the masters of reframing.  Alternatively you might take exactly the same situation and change what it means (called a ‘content’ or ‘meaning’ reframe).  That could be “we’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in another direction”  or even “there is no failure, only feedback”! 

 So think of a situation of your own where perhaps you put a less than positive frame around it.  Now remember, who runs your brain?  You, right?   So start framing and reframing experiences in a way that makes them work for you and that supports you achieving your wonderful, amazing goals.  Perhaps you could even start to see your biggest problems as your greatest opportunities?

© Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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2 responses to “Glass Half Full or Half Empty: What’s in a Frame?

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