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Framing is (Nearly) Everything

More generally, framing is simply the way we look at or describe things. Framing declining sales as a “sales problem” or as a “product problem” is a big deal because those different framings lead to enormous differences in analysis, decision-making, and action. Choose the wrong frame and you’ll end up solving the wrong problem and putting your business at risk.

What does any of this have to do with performance, personality, and the workplace? Quite a bit. An inner voice that says, “You’re an idiot” when you flub a client call is decidedly less constructive than one that asks, “What exactly went wrong with that call and what specific skills do you need to develop to do better next time?”. The former is personal, permanent, and pervasive, the latter objective, temporary, and helpfully constrained.

When it comes to personality, describing a colleague as “remote”, “distant”, or “frosty” has a different connotation and consequence than identifying them as simply more introverted. On the opposite end, noting that someone is energized by social interaction is likely more useful than dismissing them as a “chatterbox”.

Opting for descriptive dimensions aligned with the Big Five personality traits (like introverted-extraverted) reduces the emotionality of our knee-jerk descriptions, granting our colleagues appropriate respect and ourselves the calmness needed to think clearly about our relationships, our communication, and our collaboration. None of us has infinite runway or infinite patience and some conflicts and failures are inevitable, but changing our framing enhances the descriptive and cognitive granularity we need to navigate the messy world of humans at work.