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Framing as an Art – The Coaching Room

This article was originally written by Michael Hall – gently edited by The Coaching Room


We all frame. We frame because to understand anything requires a way to interpret things. To even hear the familiar everyday words, “How are you?” requires a frame. Normally, we use the greeting frame to understand those words. It is actually not a request for a health report, only an acknowledge of your presence. It is a longer version of “hi.” You would, however, give a health report if your medical doctor asked, “How are you?” And you’d give a much more personal report about yourself if a therapist asked that question.

We frame also in order that we are not mis-understood. Normally in conversation if someone interrupts us, we are likely to interpret that person as being rude, impolite, impatient, or lacking social skills. In the coaching conversation, however, we need to interrupt to catch a frame or a key structural code of a client, so we have to set the frame about interruption.

“Because coaching is designed to detect and identify the structural frames that may be creating your experience, I will be interrupting you whenever I hear a word, phrase, or question that may indicate such.”


Here we are actually reframing. That is, we are replacing one frame for another frame— a better way to think about something. How a person thinks about something refers to the meaning that a person gives to a word, phrase, or action. Ultimately, a frame as a frame-of-meaning offers your way to present a higher quality meaning for something.

“Interruption does not mean rudeness, it means that we are engaged in a dialogue, and my job is to detect the invisible structural assumptions that may be creating limitations for you.”

Because our most recent ACMC training in Hong Kong was our first time to introduce the moment-by-moment replay of an expression of a skill, the team and myself turned up the amount of interrupting that we did. This led to a new frame for interruptions.

“In order to deliberately practice a skill until you get it and know that you can do it, I will be interrupting you repeatedly and asking you do Take 2, Take 3, etc.”


I did this from the first day to day seven of ACMC. A coach-in-training would present a frame and whenever it did not provide an understandable meaning, I would interrupt.

“You just said that you were going to interrupt because you don’t need much information and you want to help me reach my outcome. As devil’s advocate I would say, ‘Well just don’t interrupt me and we’ll get to the outcome faster.’ I could misunderstand that. So, why are you interrupting?”

As the person would tell me about why he is interrupting, I would either say, “Okay, say that!” or I would help the person find the words to convey a more appropriate meaning. Then I’d give the

cue, “Okay, Take 2 from the start.” And we would sometimes do this as many as seven times. With each replay, the person would refine his expression and the way he would present it. I would check with the person hearing it— asking him if it now makes sense and he understands why the coaching is interrupting. By the seventh time, the coach would “get it.” He would not just get by with doing it, he would understand the structure of setting a frame. How do I know? Because I would then say, set another frame. Set one about emotions, about dialogue, about challenge, etc. He would then do that and demonstrate that he gets the skill of how to set a frame— which is the whole point.


Deliberately practicing a critical piece of a skill means practicing under supervision and doing it repeatedly until you get it. In this way, you accelerate learning and development. In this way you run your neuro-pathways in a particular way until it habituates so that it truly becomes yours.

Does this cause people in the the coaching laboratories to get less done and not go as far in the session? Yes. Yet where the coach and client go in the session is of much higher quality. They are practicing the coaching more accurately and correctly.

Deliberate practice feedback is a moment-by-moment supervision that lets you know in real time how you are doing, what to do better, what to refine, and how to truly “get” the skill. If you haven’t revisited ACMC in a couple years— plan to do that as soon as you can. You’ll be tremendously glad that you did. It’s a whole new level of training and development. To your excellence and expertise!


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