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How to reframe a Critic

Reframe a critic with away-from & move-toward - Brian Prothro Intuitive Core Coaching Have you ever had difficulty trying to create an outcome at work or home when there’s that one person who is critical of everyone’s idea? Have you ever wanted to know how to regain control and reframe the conversation in a more positive context? How to reframe a critic is about transforming problem frames into positive outcome frames. We generally want to move away from things we don’t want, and move towards things we do. When people are motivated around something they want, they either are driven to move-toward or away-from something (or both) in order to get them there.

For example the phrase, “I want to experience the freedom and happiness that sufficient income can bring me,” is a better focus and motivator than “I don’t want to be poor.” This works as a positive driver towards a successful outcome. In regard to goal setting, a negative move away-from like “I don’t want to be poor,” is a poor motivator because once the negative condition is resolved that inertia is gone. “I don’t want to be poor,” also repeatedly embeds the negative image in our mind of “being poor.”

With critics, their approach is usually about why something won’t work, focusing on the problem rather than the solution. Yet, critics are often simply not verbalizing their deeper concern. Once their concern is addressed, they usually become agreeable. Critics tend to focus on what they don’t want instead of what they do want, and this leaves us with nothing to work with in terms of knowing how to change the perspective on the conversation or how to resolve the concern. The judgmental nature of a critic tends to stop the show.

With critics, the underlying purpose is to evaluate, yet they generally have positive intentions at some level. To gain control of the conversation and restore direction and positive movement, we want to uncover the underlying positive intention so that we have something you can work with.

The process looks like this;

  1. “What is the criticism or objection?”
  2. “What is the value or positive intention behind that criticism?”
    or “What is it they are attempting to achieve or preserve through criticism?”
  3. Given that’s the intention, what is the HOW question that needs to be asked?

The key is to turn the WHY something won’t work, into HOW something can work. We want to first rethink (ask ourselves) what their underlying positive intention might be.

For example, if they say, “Your idea is too hard to do.” The rephrased positive intention might sound like “How can we make this more simple and easier to complete?.  Or “Your just dreaming…” might become “How can you make the steps of your plan more solid and executable?”

If you have trouble reframing a positive intention, ask them questions like, “What is the value or purpose behind that criticism?” or “What is it that you are attempting to achieve or preserve through your criticism?” And if necessary, specifically ask them to answer these in the positive, as often they will reply with another negative.

Once you have some insight into the underlying concern and positive intention, state your understanding of their concern in the positive and get their agreement. You want to be on their side to avoid them taking another move away-from stance. By asking for their agreement that you understand their deeper concern, you give them the choice and power to align with you in that understanding of their concern, instead of against you. Your response might be “So what I am hearing is that you need a more solid understanding of how we can accomplish this so we can make it easier to execute? Is this correct?  Keep rephrasing until they say ‘yes’.

One last hint when reframing is to change their negative words or phrases into positives. Like changing the phrase “too expensive,” into “more affordable,” as in “How can we make this more affordable?”. Or turning “It’s broken,” which is a dead-end conversation stopper into, “It’s a work in progress,” allowing for continued course correction.

With the 3 step process above, we are looking for; the greater context of the critics concern, aligning with a higher perspective, purpose or reason, turning the ‘Why not’ into a ‘How can’, then getting agreement around understanding their concern.

“He who holds the frame controls the conversation!”

This concept and some questions are taken from a great book “Coach to Awakener” by Robert Dilts.

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