Monday, July 1, 2013

Shifting Perspectives: From Hopelessness to Opportunity

How can we make sure that we are able to look at something in a different way?

Taken from the Ways of Reframing Reality list in the last post, here’s something to try:

Flip the dilemma.  From hopelessness to opportunity

From the deficit to a more positive option; From perceived weaknesses to potential strengths to pull on; From what’s seen as bad to what’s working, more positive, better potential

I probably have the most experience over the years in reframing to the positive, solution-based, strength-based perspective, because of working with the Appreciative Inquiry approach.

A Positive Frame

In the realm of neuroscience, studies of the brain are showing that the more we focus on problems and a negative mental frame, the more our brains trigger fear responses, embedding the problem thinking in the neural circuitry and lowering our ability to find solutions. There are so many research findings now on the power of a positive, solution-based frame, but two of my favorites are below:

Research on high performing teams conducted by psychologists Barbara Frederickson and Marcial Losada [AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST, 2005] concluded that the critical variable accounting for the teams’ success was the ratio of positive to negative talk, in excess of 2.9 to 1.  Similar research shows that married couples and individuals also come closer to flourishing with a higher degree of positive to negative thought and talk.  

Frederickson has advanced a “broaden and build” hypothesis based on her findings over the past decade in which she posits that a more positive emotional frame enables us to access greater memory, cognitive skills, and attention.  In addition to healing from old lingering emotional wounds, positive emotions help us become more resilient.  A positive frame allows us to be more in touch with our own strengths, which in turn, helps us attend to and appreciate the strengths of others and see the potential in our situations.

This ability to perceive generative potential in the present forms the centerpiece of Tojo Thatchekerry and Carol Metzker’s construct of “appreciative intelligence.”  They believe that three capacities: 1] to reframe your situation, 2] to view everyday reality with appreciation, and 3] to see how a positive future can unfold from where we are now indicate a form of intelligence different from but as important as emotional intelligence or IQ. [Tojo Thatchenkerry and Carol Metzker, APPRECIATIVE INTELLIGENCE: SEEING THE MIGHTY OAK IN THE ACORN. Berrett-Kohler Publishers, 2006.]

PRACTICE: Flipping Problems

One simple way we can train ourselves to reframe and one of the most useful is to move from a deficit or problem orientation to a positive frame. 
  • ·        What’s right about this?
  • ·      What do we want more of? 
  • ·      What do we know about this that we can use? 
  • ·      How have we succeeded at this before?
  • ·      What is strong here that we can build on?
  • ·      What strengths do we have in our system to work on this situation?

To flip a situation so that solutions can become visible. To turn over rocks to be see what might be underneath. To shift what we are paying attention to--a type of voluntary vigilance of our thoughts, perspectives, impulses, biases, frames.

It’s so simple and so hard to remember to do--something right at the heart of all change—finding a way to flip our thinking.

Look for a new channel. Reset the dial for strengths and solutions..

Next time, we’ll make this larger, into the realm of social dilemmas.

If you are interested in going deeper into the six literacies, contact me about the next studio workshop: July 24—26 in Asheville.

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