Same picture – different frame!

In my training and coaching work, I find the use of metaphors and analogies to be really helpful for clients. One of the most effective and well known is that of “re-framing”.

The analogy is that of a picture frame. The picture is the challenge, goal or objective of the individuals. This is how it works:

  • The frame bounds the picture. People often take a situation at face value and do not consider the possible of changing the boundaries. For example, a large task broken into lots of smaller tasks may seem less daunting and more achievable. For other people, removing the boundaries altogether may be helpful and allow a “bigger picture” to be considered.
  • A frame defines the perspective of a picture.  A frame might be thought of like a window-frame, where the perspective depends on the location of the window.  By moving the frame you can create a new perspective.  For example, a mountain looks huge when viewed from the bottom, but looks much smaller when viewed from the top of an even higher mountain.  Same mountain – different perspective.
  • A frame can either enhance or detract from the picture. If you were framing a picture I am sure you would spend ages selecting the right frame, but do you apply the same effort and consideration to “framing” a task or objective you set for another person? Bear in mind that framed in different ways the same task might seem like an opportunity, a difficult challenge or even a punishment!

The point is that in all communication, the context is just as important as the content.  Thinking of the context as the frame of a picture makes it easier for some people to vary the context and see the goal or challenge in a new light. In any photographic shop, there are limitless frames you can select to finish off your lovely pictures – wooden, silver, glass, patterned, plain, blue, green, red - the same applies to how you experience your life.

To contact Gill McKay, please email her at

  Gill MCKay