Reframing is a way of changing the frame of reference for the way we look at something.

We express our beliefs and perceptions about ourselves, situations, other people  and things that have happened, are happening currently or are likely to happen, within our own internal language (our inner voice) and in the way we communicate our experience to others.

We react to our own perception and see these perceptions as fixed and true, and yet they are filtered through our unconscious (and sometimes conscious) deletions, distortions and generalisations. We might naturally delete the things that do not support our perception or viewpoint, concentrating instead on the things that validate that viewpoint.

For example, if we say to ourselves, or others, that work is very stressful, we are naturally giving instructions to ourselves to look for the evidence that supports this view and therefore ‘delete’ or put down the focus list, those things that are enjoyable and less stressful in our work environment.

In the same way, if we feel that someone is disrespectful for example, we may unconsciously distort any behaviour that they display to support this view.

Our unconscious instinct will also look to generalise the things we see, hear, feel etc to fit the perception we have and find ourselves saying things like ‘that always happens’, ‘communication is bad here’, ‘everybody else is doing so well’, ‘the whole world is against me’ etc.



Getting a different perspective and moving the boundary

In essence, what happens is that we put a boundary around our perception, and it can become fixed and seem immovable. We put our perception into a locker, that we appear to have forgotten the combination for.

In NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) we can utilise the power of reframing to shake this boundary, expanding it to consider a different assessment of the matter and potentially hold an alternative belief or viewpoint. We can take the perception out of the locker and often realise that we have been keeping it in storage too long.

Reframing allows us to see a different perspective, look out of a different window and thus shift a perception or belief that is unhelpful to us emotionally (causing us stress, frustration or unhappiness), keeps us stuck or limits our behaviours or choices.


Simple reframing for yourself

Sometimes it is really interesting to listen to what you are saying to yourself and then ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the impact of what I am saying to myself, what is it doing for me?
  • Is there a different way of looking at this?
  • If I took a different perspective, how would that make me feel, what difference would it make?
  • If I heard a close friend saying this, is there a potentially more positive way they could look at it?
  • How can I rephrase the statement to a question that would help me learn or move forward?
  • How can I flip this to a more empowering statement?


Asking better questions

I often think of our mind as a bit like an internet search engine– ask it a question and it will bring back the nearest matches as an answer (or the ones that are sponsored, the ones that have the most emotional investment put into them).


For example, if you ask yourself “why do things always go wrong for me?” what do you think happens? That’s right, your mind is going to come back with all the times when things didn’t go quite to plan and can lead to you ruminating over these!


So next time you notice that negative question popping into your mind, try reframing it or flipping it and give it a positive direction.


For example, rather than ask “why do things always go wrong for me?”  try asking “what do I need to make this work?”. Now your mind has a positive task to do and will start to bring back solutions rather than problems – you have given it a different window to look through!


Challenging the ‘what ifs’

Very often we can get anxious and lack confidence about things purely because we play all the ‘what if’ questions over and over in our minds. Think what happens when you have an important conversation you need to have.


Recognise any of these ‘what if’s’? :

  • “What if I forget what to say and dry up?”
  • “What if they get upset?”
  • “What if they judge me?”
  • “What if people find me boring?”
  • “What if I over run?”
  • “What if I mumble?”
  • “What if people don’t understand my point?”


A simple technique is to change the question slightly and flip it e.g.


  • “What if I just allow myself to go with the flow?”
  • “What if they help me understand how they feel?”
  • “What if they recognise what I am trying to say and respect me for being honest?”
  • “What if they can pick up one thing that will help them?”
  • “What if I they are happy to give me the time I need because what I am saying is of benefit to them?”
  • “What if I give them the key highlights and then invite them to know more?”
  • “What if I ask them what they need to know from me and open up a two-way conversation?”

Changing the ‘I know’ angle

Or how about the great ‘I know’ or ‘I always’ coming into play?

  • “I know people have more experience than me”
  • “I know how they’ll react”
  • “I know they won’t like what I have to say”
  • “I know I’ll be really nervous”
  • “I always freeze when the conversations gets heated”
  • “I know I won’t do as well as I want”


Let’s be honest, the I know is a bit of a falsehood isn’t it? We don’t really know, we just expect. We utilise our deletion, distortion and generalisation to strengthen the power of our perception to validate it.


So, a simple way to lessen its power is to flip the statement and add ‘is it possible’. For example, rather than the ‘I know’ statements above you could ask:


  • Is it possible that my experience and knowledge is different and there is something they could learn from me?
  • Is it possible that I might be surprised by the reactions I receive?
  • Is it possible that they might find a golden nugget in what I have to say that would make a difference?
  • Is it possible that I could be excited about this opportunity?
  • Is it possible that if I really listen to what others are saying I could learn something myself?



Also put your focus on things going just as you want it to go. Notice how you feel, how you are thinking, what you might be seeing when it has gone just as you want to go and you have received the reaction you wanted. Imagine a time 15 minutes or so after the conversation has gone just as you wanted it. Now what would that ‘you’ tell the ‘you’ now?


More ways to control your critical inner voice

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For more articles on the power, tools and structures of NLP please visit .

In my next article, I will look at how you can artfully utilise reframing with others to shift their perception and give them a more empowering window to look out of.