When a painting is framed it is not changed. But, the way the colours and shapes are strengthened or lessened can be dramatically altered and thus affect the interpretation intended by the artist. The frame can make the painting more appealing, more exciting, dull and lacklustre or, simply not worth mentioning. Artists have been known to spend weeks or even years choosing the perfect frame for their work. Framing is so important that they sometimes experiment by putting several different frames around the painting until they find the ideal one. The frame is uniquely suited to the picture and harmoniously enhances every fine quality and potential of the creative work.
So what has all this talk about artists, paintings and frames to do with life coaching? The ability to listen to a story and then select the perfect frame for it is a precious skill. Life coaching does not require that you have this skill. You can work without it. However, once you have the understanding and flexibility to frame and reframe you will then understand why some clients resisted your suggestions or were reticent about employing your services. You will see how to make life more tranquil for yourself and your clients. Conversations will be clearer and you will achieve results without having to exert extra energy and enthusiasm into ideas. When you use framing, your clients more readily accept your suggestions and resistance diminishes.
Framing skill is easily learned and you can have fun practising with everyone you meet. This means that once you start to use frames you will rapidly become adept at the skill with little effort from you.
The above paragraph is an example of a frame. I have framed the experience of ‘learning a new skill’ with the frame of ease, speed of accomplishment and fun. I could just as easily have framed the skill with pain, and hardship. Like this:
Framing skill is difficult to learn and you must practise continuously with everyone you meet. This means that once you start to use frames you will gradually become adept at the skill with some effort from you.
You can frame carefully to get the results that you want. You can frame accidentally and jeopardise your results. Or you can do nothing. If you choose the latter two options you are choosing to make life coaching more arduous and less enjoyable for yourself.
One of the challenges faced by all coaches is to keep clients within the allocated time slot. It is very easy to overrun on time. This sets a poor precedent that will also reduce your profits. Frames offer excellent tools for dealing with this situation.
‘Good morning Jack, before we start, I would just like to confirm that this is a 45 minute session and it will finish at 11.45, is that so?’
This frame sets the time boundaries of the call and therefore, when 40 minutes have elapsed, you can say at an appropriate break in conversation, ‘It’s now 11.40 and we only have 5 minutes, what would be the most effective use of this time for you?’
The frame at the beginning of the call gives you the freedom to mention time at the end of the call without it becoming an embarrassing interruption. With this technique it simply becomes an anticipated completion of what was started. You brought the client’s attention to the time at the outset of the session and did so again at the end to create a perfectly rounded session. Using this type of framing in my own practice has helped to overcome the early difficulties of overrunning and its impact on the day’s schedule.
The skill of reframing differs from framing because it gives your client options, which allow room for them to change their minds about events or beliefs. When you reframe an event for your client you are not altering the events, all you are doing is looking at them in a different way. Whereas
framing is ‘setting the scene’, reframing is ‘changing the scene’ by offering your clients an alternative frame. In this way you release them from being stuck with the same interpretation of the scene, picture or event.
Extract taken from The Life Coaching Handbook by Curly Martin.