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Main article: Paradoxical techniques

The term Reframing designates a communication technique which has origins in family systems therapy and the work of Virginia Satir. Milton H. Erickson has been associated with reframing and it also forms an important part of Neuro-linguistic programming. In addition, the provocative therapy uses reframing with an emphasis on humor.

Another meaning or another sense is assigned by reframing a situation or context, thus sees a situation in another frame. A frame can refer to a belief, what limits our view of the world. If we let this limiting belief go, new conceptions and interpretation possibilities can develop.

Psychotherapists trained in the reframing by communication attempt to let scenes appear in another point of view (frame) so that someone feels relieved or is able to deal with the situation better.

An example of this is the reframing of the role as a passive victim (“the craze overcomes me”) into an active role, from which different decisions than so far can be made (“can you now see the situations out, in which you decide your course of action?”). Other examples are the reinterpretation one than negatively noticed behavior (“my mother constantly interferes into my life.”) in a positive (“your mother would like to thus protect you”), or a sensitization going by that “a well meant” behavior releases negative effects with the target object.

Anthony Robbins wrote, "A signal has meaning only in the frame or context in which we perceive it." [1] For example, if a person is resting in bed and hears his bedroom door open, that exact same noise will have two totally different meanings to him and evoke drastically different reactions depending on whether (1) he is alone in a locked house, or (2) he had previously invited his friend over and left the back door to his house unlocked. According to Anthony Robbins:

[I]f we perceive something as a liability, that's the message we deliver to our brain. Then the brain produces states that make it a reality. If we change our frame of reference by looking at the same situation from a different point of view, we can change the way we respond in life. We can change our representation or perception about anything and in a moment change our states and behaviors. This is what reframing is all about. [2]


Say a university or college student breaks his leg during summer vacation. He is crestfallen, because he can no longer play tennis and golf with his family and friends. A few days later, he realizes that he now has the quiet, alone time to learn how to play the guitar, something he had always wanted to do but had been too busy to attempt. He then discovers he has a great aptitude for music and becomes a decent guitar player by summer's end. One year later, he changes his major to music. After graduation he embarks on a successful music career. Years later, his friends recall how unfortunate his leg fracture was that summer, and he says, "Breaking my leg was the best thing that ever happened to me!" From then on, whenever he is disabled by injury or illness, he recalls the lesson and is far less despondent over his temporary disability than he otherwise would have been, as he takes the opportunity to do something novel.

Another example - let's say that you are a 20-something who has finished college and now entering the workforce. You’ve done well in school, but always found yourself competing with your peers. That competition has bred a little bit of anxiety about achievement. You’ve done well for yourself and landed a decent job with fair pay that comes with a lot of responsibility. You feel a great sense of duty to meet quick deadlines, which brings up old anxieties about comparison and achievement.

When you get your first performance review, you get the feedback that you could “manage your time more efficiently” without much other feedback. This sends you in a bit of a tailspin. You now fear that your boss is looking for a reason to get rid of you. You try to do every task very quickly. You make more mistakes because you’re anxious and rush through projects. You’re afraid to lose your job. The anxiety is causing you to perform worse and you’re not sure what to do about it.

What if you reframed that feedback from your boss? What if your boss meant that she doesn’t like that you often stay late after hours and wants you to take better care of yourself on a daily basis? What if she sees your work as being thorough and efficient, but is scared you’re going to burn yourself out and end up hating your career path?

Six step reframe

Main article: Reframing (NLP)

The six-step reframe is a pattern for changing unwanted habits and behaviors developed by John Grinder, the co-founder of NLP.[3]. It involves:

  1. Identifying the context where the unwanted behavior pattern occurred,
  2. Establishing unconscious yes/no signals,
  3. Confirming that the behavior has a positive intent,
  4. Finding a number of ways of fulfilling the positive intent,
  5. Selecting the best of the possible alternatives generated in step 4,
  6. Checking that the selection is ecological, that is, it is acceptable to the individual and in relationships to others.

Context reframing

The meaning of any behaviour or event exists only in relationship to the context in which it occurs.

Every behaviour is appropriate in some context. With a context reframe a person takes the disliked behaviour and asks, "Where could this behaviour be useful?" or "In what other context would this particular behaviour be of value?"

A context reframe leaves the meaning of a behaviour the same and shows how it could be a useful response in a different context.

For example:

A: "I procrastinate all the time; I just can't get things done."
B: "That's a great skill to have; especially when you apply it to overeating - just put off having that second helping. Lucky you."

Value reframing

In brand management and marketing terms value reframing means giving a new value to a product/service by finding a new market/context.


  1. Anthony Robbins, Unlimited Power (New York: Ballantine, 1987) 291.
  2. Robbins 291.
  3. Grinder, John & Carmen Bostic St Clair (2001.). Whispering in the Wind. CA: J & C Enterprises.

See also


  • Bandler, Richard; Reframing: NLP And The Transformation Of Meaning 1983; Paperback
  • Andreas, Steve & Faulkner, Charles; NLP: The New Technology of Achievement by NLP Comprehensive Feb 19, 1996; paperback
  • Ellerton, Roger PhD CMC; Live Your Dreams... Let Reality Catch Up: NLP and Common Sense for Coaches, Managers and You Jul 6, 2006; paperback