The Power of the Reframe at Work

Do you get defensive when people start criticizing your work? Do you say ‘yes’ to everything so that you can appease your boss and coworkers? Do you focus on all the things that went wrong on a project?

Understanding the reframing technique will help you in your work. Here’s a situation and a breakdown of the reframing technique.

Too many emails!

You are working in accounting. There are hundreds of emails coming into your inbox every day and you can’t seem to stay on top of your inbox. One day, a manager from another department calls you and asks where their report is. You don’t know what they are talking about, but as they are talking, you find that the request is in an unopened email. The manager, sensing that you haven’t even seen the email, says “I can’t believe it. The report is due tomorrow and the accounting department can’t even keep up with their emails.”

Defensive: Sorry I didn’t see your email, I’ve been getting way too many and it’s hard to keep up. I’ll get right to your request so that you have the report first thing in the morning. (You then work overtime to get the report over to the manager).

Reframe: The accounting department answers and responds to hundreds of emails every day in a timely manner. I understand you’re upset you haven’t received your report and it’s due tomorrow — can we chat first thing tomorrow morning and we can work together to develop the report?

Acting defensive vs. Going on the offense

When you’re defensive, you let others dictate the terms. Your words and actions show that the other person’s time is more valuable than yours. You accept things as a given and you try to manage the demand. You may apologize and try to satisfy the other person.

When you’re on the offense, you decide the terms. Your time is just as valuable as theirs is. Rather than accept blindly, you offer different options and you collaboratively decide on a solution. You initiate so that others aren’t making demands on you. Finally, you empathize, agree, and then reframe so that you can control the direction and conversation.

This post was created with Typeshare




Author of Essential Habits. I write about personal development, work and managing your career. Connect with me at

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Wang Yip

Wang Yip

Author of Essential Habits. I write about personal development, work and managing your career. Connect with me at

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