Reframing is a Major Life Coaching Skill

What is reframing and why is it an important coaching skill? Lumia Coaching instructor Juliann Wiese explains, with examples of how to apply it in a session.

The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring Lumia Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. Subscribe to get new episodes weekly!

The Art of the Reframe

Lumia instructor Juliann Wiese discussing reframing techniques in coaching

Juliann Wiese has over 25 years of corporate experience in a variety of capacities including; organization development, talent management, leadership and executive development. She has worked across a wide variety of industries and sectors including health care, hospitality, manufacturing, retail and service industries, and call center environments. Juliann has provided coaching, training and consulting around the world in over a dozen countries. 

To learn more about Juliann’s coaching practice, you can visit her website or connect on LinkedIn

‍What does Juliann teach in the Lumia coach training program? 

  • Sales Process
  • Client Prospecting
  • Coaching Presence
  • Reframing & Reflecting
  • ICF Mentoring

Reframing is a Major Life Coaching Skill 

In this episode, Juliann and Noelle discuss a fundamental coaching skill: the technique known as The Reframe. They discuss what it is, how it works, and ways to apply it… with a sprinkle of neuroscience tossed in for good measure!

What is a reframe?

Reframing is a technique where the coach asks questions or makes a statement that helps the client see obstacles, situations, limiting thoughts or feelings from a different perspective. The aim of reframing is to shift or enable perspective towards one that is more empowered, expanded or helpful.

The point of cognitive reframing is to find a new better frame (perspective or narrative) of how to look at a specific event or belief.

Wondering how this works?

Let’s look at an example of a reframe on the following statement: 

"The pandemic was awful."

Reframing invites us to see what else might be there. When asked to go deeper, a person might respond with:

  • The pandemic had some awful outcomes.
  • The pandemic created both positive and negative outcomes for humanity.
  • The pandemic made me grateful for what I have.
  • The pandemic has changed how I view my priorities.

All of these statements are about the same circumstance. Taken together, they offer a more expansive look at how the pandemic has affected people beyond the initial thought of “it was awful.”

Reframing reminds us that situations that happen to us in life have no inherent meaning. We are the ones who assign a meaning, seeing a situation through a certain frame.

When we reframe, we’re helping our coaching clients to see that there isn’t a singular way to engage with anything.

Most of the time, we don’t see things as they are - we see them as we are. And once we choose a perspective, we often have blind spots to the fact that there’s a much broader way of looking at another person, situation, or event.

If a coach can help someone achieve an expanded view, it can change their life.

Reframing isn’t simply taking something “negative” and turning it into a “positive.” The reality is that a reframe is much more nuanced than that.

As coaches, we don’t label things for other people. We try to avoid using language that rates and evaluates. Here’s why. It’s very difficult to determine what is “positive” or “negative” for another person. Instead, what we’re attempting to do with a reframe is simply to expand their point of view. 

A reframe invites the client to look at an idea or belief and see what else is there, without putting a label on it.

How To Apply A Coaching Reframe

Coaching questions that help move a client into a reframe sound like:

  • In addition to being [frustrated/upset/angry/stuck], what else are you experiencing as you look at yourself in this situation?
  • What strengths do you know you have that you haven’t tapped into lately that might help you through this challenge?
  • If you were to look at this as a learning opportunity, what feels most resonant for you?

If you’d like to model the way by offering a reframe of your own, you could introduce it by saying: “Here’s what I heard you say:___________. Did I capture it? Are you open to another perspective on it?”

The questions above demonstrate a strengths-based and whole-person approach. Research in neuroscience tells us that this very simple coaching technique packs a powerful punch in developing neuroplasticity, which leads to expansive and creative thinking. We get there by turning mental attention in the direction of positive emotions. When we do so, the chemical cocktail that gets released helps to limit the brain’s capacity to engage in narrow thoughts and negativity bias. 

For more information on the brain science behind how this works, check out: Understanding Negativity Bias.

Reframing Exercise

In Juliann’s class on Reframing in Lumia’s life coach training program, she takes students through a simple practice in reframing language. Here’s how it works.

Example: “I’m an overthinker.” 

What else could “overthinking” be?

  • Conscientious
  • Analytical 
  • Deep, critical thinker
  • Detail oriented
  • Interested in what’s below the surface

Example: “Somebody called me conceited.”

What are other ways might you describe qualities of a “conceited” person?

  • Confident
  • Assertive
  • Interested in their self power and agency

As you can see, reframing in these examples takes labels and expands how we think about them.

Labels have many interpretations, and the process of moving beyond a fixed definition helps us see that there is more present than a singular fact. Try it the next time you're stuck in a loop of critical inner thoughts about yourself and see what else may be there!

‍Want to Become a Coach?

One of our values at Lumia is that we dare to be different. Our instructors like Juliann live from their own truth and help you develop the skills and tools to do the same. If you are ready to step into your power as a coach, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.

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