Research reveals how reframing can work on others too

When things don’t go quite the way you plan at work, it can undoubtedly be a frustrating time, with this frustration increasingly so if your plans have an awful lot resting on them.  You might need funding for a key project, for instance, or especially want to impress your boss.

As with so much in life, how you frame matters can play a big part in how you emerge from such a situation.  A recent study from Cornell found that reframing these kind of catastrophes as passion for your project can do just the job.

The authors suggest that if you manage to paint your distress as a kind of passion, then this translates into being seen as more competent than you otherwise might appear, with positive results flowing from that.

“You can take some control of the situation after the event by reframing it to others as, ‘I was upset because I’m very passionate about this project,'” the authors say. “Our studies show that reframing distress as passion changes how other people assess your competence.”

“Being passionate is often stated as an important attribute for employees; passion is associated with determination, motivation and having a high degree of self-control. Being emotional, however, has almost a negative mirror effect and is associated with irrationality, instability, ineptitude and a low degree of self-control,” they continue.

Cognitive reappraisal

It’s what’s known in psychology circles as ‘cognitive reappraisal’.  In lay terms, this means when we change how we think about a situation, we usually then change how we feel about it.

For instance, if you’re nervous before a big presentation or job interview, you can reframe that nervousness as excitement, and the chances are you’ll feel more positively about it.

Whilst this concept is reasonably well accepted, most of the time this reframing happens privately.  So this study is interesting because it involves a public reframing of emotion to influence the perceptions of others as well as yourself.

“Emotion reframing appears to work because emotionality tends to be associated with negative attributes, such as an inability to act and think rationally and make sound decisions,” the authors say.


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