Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Sunday, March 1, 2009

If You Want a Client to Reframe ...

... some aspect of his life to some advantage then you might need to begin by telling him what reframing is. Not that most of us don’t know what reframing is. Far from it. It’s just that that particular piece of jargon is not particularly evocative.

I’ve been thinking recently about where I might find metaphors to stand for the metaphor of reframing. Suddenly today, whilst doing dishes (usually my best thinking time), I realised that large numbers of mystery novels involve reframing plots. One could suggest to a client that he watch, say, an Agatha Christie on DVD and then point out how Miss Marple the detective solves the murder by reframing the problem.

But who has the time for that? I needed a shorter story.

Given the dreadful state of my memory it’s a good thing that I happened to read a good example of a chance reframing just a day or two ago, in an obituary. The death notice was that for Mr Ian Carr, a prominent jazz musician; and here is the relevant part of it:

‘The closest he came to the literary world at this time was an introduction to Somerset Maugham. This led to a series of visits to Maugham’s home, which ended abruptly when Maugham’s secretary, Alan Searle, took Carr aside and murmured: “Mr Maugham wants to know why you wear a beard, because youve got such a beautiful face.” Future invitations were refused.’

Maugham was gay but Carr hadn’t realised this and had been quite happy to visit him. Once he heard from Searle that Maughm found him attractive he reframed his understanding of what might have led to Maughm’s invitations.

Short stories with this structure could be very useful to us because so much of what we do as career developers involves encouraging clients to frame or reframe. At one extreme when we ask for lists of skills then suggest that a client think of other occupations that might appeal and involve the use of a similar set of skills we are asking the client to consider a different frame of reference. At another extreme when we suggest that a client entertain a different identity we are again offering a different frame.