July 02, 2008

Perspective (2)

I readily admit to being a "glass half-empty" sort of person.
This does not refer to my drinking habits, I hasten to add, but to the fact that I am one of those people who have the unfortunate tendency to choose the bleaker of two possible interpretations in any situation.
The trouble is that there are usually many more than two ways of looking at something, so the boffins have come up with something called "Framing", which then leads to concepts such as reframing, frame selection, and so on.

For example, here's something I read on a blog recently:
"Throwing hurtful and completely unfounded accusations [like that] ... is really not a clever move."
Despite having evidently been written in some distress, and unfortunately weakened by aggrieved petulance (omitted from the quote), it is nonetheless a valid statement - hurtful and unfounded accusations should not be thrown at anyone.

As it happens, I was the subject of a similar personal attack a few months ago, in the same organisation to which the above incident refers, so I understand very well indeed how the author feels.
However, the irony is that the writer of the above words has in the past made "hurtful and unfounded accusations" against me (and others). So I will admit to a shameful but wry amusement at this fine example of "what goes around comes around", but more constructively, it prompted me to do a little self-reflection.

In both cases, I'm sure that distressing feelings on both sides could have been avoided with a little consideration of possible alternative interpretations, rather than immediately leaping to the most unpleasant one.
I found a very helpful article on this subject, and although it is written for doctors, its more general applications are obvious (my emphasis added):
"Reframing ... is one of the most powerful and creative stress reducers [and] is a technique used to change the way you look at things in order to feel better about them. ...
The key to reframing is to recognize that there are many ways to interpret the same situation ... so you might as well pick the one you like. ...
For example, a woman's boss was acting critical and domineering towards her. I said, "Assuming your boss is not just evil or malicious, why do you think she might be acting like this?" Answers included, "She is probably insecure," "She is under a lot of pressure,' and "She is having personal problems." Performing this exercise helped the patient step outside herself and look at other possible interpretations of her boss's behavior. After that, her upset was considerably
decreased. In fact, after such a discussion some patients feel more compassion than anger for the person who is bothering them.
"
Worth a try, I think. ;-)

2 comments:

DeathOwl said...

My better half is struggling to get on with one of her colleagues currently (who is basically lazy and doesn't pull her weight). I've tried putting forward the perspective that the colleague is possibly suffering from stress (admittedly brought on herself by long term slacking) and that is why they've been snapping at each other. Still I suspect the situation is now too heated to be resolved through reframing.
It's a technique I've come across a lot on management courses, unfortunately most of the time when I ought to remember to use it - I completely forget!

Mak said...

Yes that has always been my experience too, deathowl, so thank you for the comment. It is certainly very difficult indeed to recall and apply these sensible strategies when emotions are running high, but I guess the more often we think about them afterwards, the more likely we will be to remember them earlier. As I say, it's worth a try. :-)

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