Moving from an agronomy ‘firefighter’ to a trusted mentor - tips and tools to positively influence your client’s decisions

Author: Carol Fox | Date: 10 Feb 2015

Life Performance Pty Ltd.

Keywords: communication, ‘Reframe Tool’, perception, sub conscious.

Take home messages

  • Support ‘open communication’ within a team.
  • Be aware that everyone’s perception of reality is different.
  • Use the ‘reframe tool’ to change your current reality and focus on the positives in a situation rather than the negatives.
  • The ‘reframe tool’ can help you maintain clear communication to get the job done. 


Did you know?  ‘Conflict’ is defined as a serious disagreement or argument, yet is comes from the Latin word conflictus which means ‘a contest’.

I think this is an interesting reframe on the word conflict. When we can view it as a contest, a game, then, like any athlete in life, we can choose to learn from our performance so we can perform better the next time around.

In talking about conflict, Walt Whitman once asked, “Have you learned lessons only of those who admired you, were tender with you and stood aside for you? Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you and disputed the passage with you?” Sure it is wonderful to have harmony. The true pacifist is someone who knows how to play the game, understands their part in the conflict and manages themselves elegantly and calmly, even amongst chaos.

Here’s some information to help you do that

Know that, even in the workplace, we are all human and we all have ‘baggage’ – in psychology we call this a ‘gestalt’. In pressure situations our baggage can get triggered, and we can have an inappropriate emotional reaction to a situation, such as an angry outburst or an anxiety attack about something seemingly ‘small’ or trivial. Most of the time, this reaction has absolutely nothing to do with the person or situation on the receiving end of the emotional outburst. Sometimes experiencing such a reaction could affect their entire day, causing disharmony, stress and even illness.

What you can do?

  • If someone’s ‘baggage’ has just been triggered and they have over-reacted to an event, remind yourself: “It’s not about me”.  Remember that this is a subconscious stress response; the person is probably very stressed at the moment.
  • Next ask yourself, “I wonder what’s going on for that person at this moment that causes them to act that way?” This is a question based on quantum linguistics and is designed to speak straight to the subconscious mind. It allows us to step back and approach a situation with compassion, which helps us maintain rapport and effective communication. It also pre-supposes that, because they have responded inappropriately, there is something going on for them which is bigger than us.
  • If you have a good rapport with the person or you know them well, you could actually ask that question out aloud and very gently, “What’s going on for you at the moment? Anything I can do to help?”

This question is useful in the workplace if you are a manager, as it opens up communication, which then allows you to be aware of influences outside of work, which may affect your team’s performance. It also means your team has the experience of knowing you, as someone who listens and cares, and are there to support them.

The ‘Reframe Tool’

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian Psychologist says in his book, “Out of approximately two million bits of information surrounding us we are only consciously aware of around 134 bits per second (bps)”.  His book, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” discusses how we gather information from the world.

At every moment you are literally inundated at a conscious and subconscious level with information. Imagine going to the supermarket. You walk into the store and you are surrounded by external stimuli such as signs, colour, noises, pricing and your body responds. Perhaps your heart beats a bit faster, the sound of a crying child disturbs you, you feel warm or cool, you have self-talk reminding you to buy milk or you mentally add up the cost of your groceries as you push your trolley around the store. If we had to consciously be aware of everything we can see, taste, touch, smell and feel and pay attention to, it would be too overwhelming! So we have a filter called the Reticular Activating System (RAS), which filters most of this information for us. We are only aware of a small piece of the actual reality occurring around us.

Some of us pay more attention to what we see others to what we hear.  Some of us are more aware of how things feel and some of us pay more attention to data, facts and figures.

Based on this small amount of information, and the information we already have stored in our mind, we create our ‘Model of the World’.

What this means is that none of us perceive reality as it really is, we only perceive around 134 ‘bits’ of reality per second. We ALL have a different perception of reality. This explains why ten different witnesses at an accident scene can have ten different experiences of what has occurred, based on what they have seen, heard, felt and calculated.

Daniel Simons of University of Illinois, and Christopher Chabris of Harvard University, have conducted a study demonstrating how much information we can delete. In their study, subjects were asked to watch video footage of people throwing a basketball back and forth. They were asked to focus and count how many times the basketball was passed. In the middle of the video a clip of a man dressed in a gorilla suit passed through the middle of the game and then out of sight again. When asked, “did you see the gorilla pass through the game?” an average of 50% of the subjects didn’t see the gorilla! Why? Well, for some people they were focusing so much, on the counting and the data that they missed out on the visual detail of the gorilla.

Imagine going to visit a friend. Some people will enter their friend’s home and immediately look around and check out all the things they can see.  Some people will hear the music playing in the background or pay attention to background sounds e.g. traffic, birds.

Some people will get a feel for the place and pick up on the good or bad vibes in the home. Others will ask questions about the place. For example, how old is it? How large is the land? How much did you pay for it? Depending on our filters we will perceive or delete particular bits of information.

So if two people visit the same home they can come away with very different perceptions of it. This often happens with couples. One might say “Did you see that amazing pond in the back yard?” And the other might reply, “No, I didn’t notice that. But did you feel the bad vibes when we walked in? Do you reckon John and Sally are happy together?” The first person might reply, “How could you not see the fish pond? It was huge! And what do you mean, ‘Are they happy?’ They were smiling weren’t they?”

In this situation, the first person has paid more attention to what they have seen and the second to what they have felt. Both of them are right. They have just picked up on different parts of the reality occurring all around them (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Quote from Friedrich Nietzsche.

Figure 1. Quote from Friedrich Nietzsche.

As we gather information from the world, the mind will delete, distort and generalise information based on the beliefs we hold internally. If someone believes they are stupid, their mind may delete from their memory any experience of doing something that is clever. Their mind will distort information, so if someone says to them “You are so clever” they may hear a sarcastic tone where there is none. Their mind will generalise their experiences to support their belief that they are stupid, so they create experiences like always failing exams to support that theory.

Of course this is all subconscious. None of us would want this consciously. It’s human nature to want to be happy and successful. Yet the subconscious mind is so powerful that it controls and runs our programs automatically for us, sometimes even programs that give us a result we don’t even want.

The deletion of information also has an impact on how we communicate with other people

Whenever we judge someone, or have negative opinions about someone or something, we tend to justify our own reality and make that person wrong. We effectively delete anything good about them from our reality.

One of our clients recently asked us to come and assess his “Lazy Team”. When we got there we observed the team, as he pointed out all of the ‘lazy’ behaviours of the team. What we noticed was that he was so busy concentrating on his perception that his team was lazy, he was deleting anything they did that was productive, distorting how long they were taking breaks and generalising from the few ‘lazy’ behaviours that were occurring.

At one point he made the comment, “See that woman there. She just went to the toilet to get out of work. She was there for ten minutes. She’s so lazy.  My reply was, “Wow that’s interesting. I actually saw her get up and I timed her and she was only in the toilet for four minutes!” Because of his belief in his own reality, this manager even distorted time to make his reality the right one!

After explaining to him the impact of thinking this way, we asked him if it was worthwhile having a different viewpoint. He of course said yes. So we asked him, “What are seven good things about your team?” He went quiet for the first minute, trying to come up with one positive thing about his team (this is how immersed in his reality he was!).  Eventually he came out with “They dress professionally”, and when prompted further it became easier and easier as he began to focus his awareness on the possibility that maybe there were things his team actually did right!

When we consider that around 93% of our communication is at a subconscious mind level, imagine the impact of his body language when he finally started focusing on the good in his team. He wondered why they were suddenly more motivated. They were responding to his positive body language at last, rather than the un-motivating, energy draining, distrusting body language of old.

It was important for his staff and him that we were able to highlight a different reality for him and use what is known as a ‘Reframe Tool’ so he could effectively ‘reframe’ the experience he was having with his team.

Whenever you are feeling negative about yourself, another person, or a situation, a really useful tool to have is the ‘reframe tool’. This technique allows you to conveniently and quickly change your current reality, by focusing on the positives in a situation rather than the negatives.

How does reframing help you communicate confidently?

Remember the story of the client with the ‘lazy team’? When he reframed his team and began to focus on the positives, this impacted on his body language and allowed him to communicate in a way that was respectful and sincere. This is what confident communication is about. It’s normal that we don’t like everyone we meet. It’s normal that we will have strong connections with some people and no connections with others. If someone we don’t automatically connect with happens to be someone we work with, or for some reason we need to have good communication with, then this tool can help you maintain clear communication to get the job done.

Contact details

Carol Fox

PO Box 629, Williamstown, VIC 3016

1800 790 559