Re-Framing

Remember that saying:

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.

Do you believe it? Neither do I. 

Words are important.

If a child is called stupid too often, they will learn to internalize the message.

If a woman or a man, isolated by their spouse in an abusive marriage, is constantly belittled, he or she may believe this is the normal state of a marriage.

If a person with disabilities is consistently made fun of or ridiculed, with no one to stand up for them, their sense of adding value to their society will fall.  

It's time to re-frame our way of interpreting life, our way of living life. And January is a good month to do so. 

Let's start with something small. 

The following example came from a story that showed up on my facebook feed. When running late, a typical response is to say,

I’m sorry I’m late.

If we would like to re-frame our response, state instead, 

Thank you for waiting.

Can you see the change?

It’s not hugely different but the nuance makes a HUGE difference. It shifts the focus of the conversation:

  • from negative to positive
  • from I to you
  • from an attitude of judgment to an attitude of gratitude

Recently, a re-framing happened for one of my friends. She works at a retail store. Between Christmas and New Year's, she worked as cashier and a line of people waited to purchase or return items.   

A customer wanted to return a $3.00 sale item with a receipt. My friend pointed out the expired date on the receipt and explained store policy. The customer persisted. My friend tried to scan the receipt into the cash register. It refused to accept the receipt. My friend apologized and again explained that the item could not be returned.

The customer argued and became loud. My friend said she could certainly call the store manager up front but he probably wouldn't be able to change the results either because it was store policy (and as a franchise, corporate office not local stores make these decisions). The customer finally left, complaining with a loud voice about how terrible the store was treating her and she was never coming back.

My friend then waited in trepidation for the next customer.

Because sometimes, one customer like that sets the whole line of customers to give that cashier the same type of treatment. And the facial expressions and body language of the people in line did not look encouraging.

But, the next customer exclaimed loudly how much she enjoyed shopping at the store and she apologized for the previous customer's behavior. 

My friend relaxed, and looking at the line of people waiting, they had relaxed, smiled, started chattering with one another. 

That's all it takes. One person.