13.11 Framing and Reframing


“Our key to transforming anything lies in our ability to reframe it.” Marianne Williamson

Framing and Reframing

Framing, in communication, is essentially the act of intentionally setting the stage for the conversation you want to have.  In framing a conversation you express why you want to engage in this topic, what your intent is, and what you hope the outcome can be for resolving the conflict,  as well as the impact/importance of your relationship.  When you frame a conversation, you take out the need for the other person to assume what your intentions and motives are or why you are bringing this topic up right now.

There are many ways to frame a conversations, here are a few ideas for how to frame a conversation effectively.

Ask if This is a Good Time to Talk

“I have been wanting to connect with you to discuss___.  Would now be a good time?”  (If the answer is no, take a minute to schedule a good time)

Consider Sharing your “Why”, Concerns, and Intentions

“This is important to me because…..”

“I’m only bringing this up because I want us and this project to be successful and I’m worried that we are missing something.”

“My intention is….”

“My intention is to share my thoughts with you, but I don’t have any expectations that you do anything with them.”

“I care about our relationships and want to make sure we are addressing challenges as they come up.” “I’m not sure how this will go.”

“I’m pretty stressed about this because I’m not sure how this conversation is going to go.”

“I have been thinking about this a lot and figured it was time to ask for help.”

Assertive Framing – Framing a Boundary

“I know this is important to you and I’m just too busy to go to that concert right now. “

“I can see this isn’t a good time to talk, so I’d like to set up a time that works better.”

“I’m sorry, I already have too much on my plate.”

“I appreciate you thinking of me for this project. I’m currently working on X, which means unfortunately, I can’t do both and have to say no to your request.”

Framing sets the stage for the rest of the conversation to unfold.  A little bit of framing goes a long way in helping conversations be more productive, and help manage some of the conflict that can happen when people have to make assumptions about “why” and conversation or conflict is happening.

For more ideas around framing, The Gottman institute has a really great infographic that shares their version of framing, Harsh Start Ups vs Soft Start Ups.


Framing happens at the beginning of a conversation, Reframing happens when things get off track and you need to bring a conversation back on topic. Consider this picture.

In the center of the picture is a Frame, that is only covering part of the ocean and cliff.  If we expanded that frame to surround the entire picture, that would be reframing.  Reframing, in a conversation, helps us see more of what is going on, helps us focus on the larger picture or our end goals, and helps defuse tense situations.  Reframing can be used for many things when managing conflict.

  • Defusing inflammatory language
  • Recasting negatives into neutral or positive statements
  • Refocusing attention
  • Acknowledging strong emotions in a productive manner
  • Translating communication so that it is more likely to be heard and acknowledged by other parties
  • Recontextualizing the dispute, providing a broader perspective
Reframing Examples 
Original Statement Reframed Statement
“You misinterpret everything.” “We must be misunderstanding each other.  Can you help me understand what you meant”
“I am fed up with your negative response to everything that is proposed.” “I agree.  Let’s focus on finding a solution and move away from negativity.”
“Can we just keep talking about this one detail?” “If you are okay with it, can we make sure we have the big picture figured out before focusing on details? Maybe the details will become more clear then.”
“That seems really petty! Can you believe that keeps happening?” “That sounds irritating. What do you need to move past this moment and look for a solution.”


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13.11 Framing and Reframing Copyright © 2021 by ashleyorme is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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