Refocusing and Reframing: An Inclusive Leadership Skill

Linda Hill here with a quick demonstration for you to do before reading the rest of this post.

  • First, get a glass and fill this glass with water up to the half way point.
  • Second, write down your answer to this question: “Is the glass half full or half empty?”
  • Third, reflect on how you are feeling about this exercise.

Although this is a simple exercise, many people find themselves feeling frustrated or conflicted or in a bit of a quandary. One reason for the feelings of frustration is that – in this situation where the glass is actually both half full AND half empty at the same time – it is pointless to be asked to choose only one answer.

Although “Either/Or” reasoning works well when there is a clear-cut choice to be made (such as does 2 plus 2 equal 4 or 6), it is frustrating to be asked closed “Either/Or” questions about most situations in our complex world. “Either/Or” reasoning tends to trick people into needless arguing over one or two ideas instead of considering multiple possibilities.

Aristotle&Plato_Dylan&MichaelThe Inclusive Leadership skill of “Refocusing and Reframing” is an important skill for preventing people from tricking each other into needless conflicts. One aspect of the skill of “Re-focusing and Re-framing” is to ask open questions that consider multiple possibilities instead of asking closed “Yes/No”, “Either/Or”  and “Right/Wrong” questions. For example, a few open questions that could be asked about a glass of water are:

  • What could the glass of water be used for?
  • What are some lessons about life that this glass of water symbolizes?
  • What are the origins and destinations of the water in this glass?

IMG_1325Refocusing and Reframing closed questions into open questions is often very helpful in shifting conversations from back-and-forth arguments into creative dialogues about multiple possibilities. Instead of firing words back and forth at each other, conversations slow down to the speed of wisdom and each person’s contributions become gifts to be welcomed and valued.

So, next time you are asked an “Either/Or” question that appears to be forcing you into a “Right/Wrong” argument, try out the skill of “Refocusing and Reframing” by asking an open question about the situation. You may experience the magical ways that open questions can help transform arguments and polarized struggles into opportunities filled with gifts of learning and growth.

IMG_1224“Refocusing and Reframing” is one of many skills involved in Inclusive Leadership. Inclusive Leaders from all walks of life will be developing our Inclusive Leadership skills while participating in experiential education in Facilitating and Mentoring Inclusive Leadership February 19 to 21 2016. Click here for more information. We invite you to save these dates and join us at Cowichan Lake Education Centre, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.