Reframing vs. Justfication, then using the 6-Step Reframe

I’ve noticed that many students have challenges identifying reframes. In module 11, they learn what reframing is and how to use it in regards to the Six-Step Reframe. Reframing is one of my favorite techniques as I’ve always been one to reframe naturally.

As I see it, reframing is basically making lemonade from lemons. It’s the basic tendency of an optimist.

I have found however, that some students have a hard time understanding the concept. It seems that they confuse reframing with justifying. Interestingly, it seems to be students from cultures outside of America. It makes me wonder if the whole, “Lemonade out of Lemons” thing is an American concept. Possibly it is called something else in others countries. I would love to hear feedback regarding this in the comments below.

So let’s talk about reframing vs. justification.

They start out about the same way- Here is my problem and here is how I can see it so it’s no longer a problem.

Let’s take the statement: “I demand too much from others.”

Now let’s apply a justification: “When I demand too much from others it helps them be their best.”

Now for the reframe: “…”

There isn’t one because the premise is wrong to begin with. The behavior of demanding too much from others is not a good thing. It actually causes problems for others.

Now, in regards to the Six-Step Reframe, my positive intention in demanding to much from others is to help them be their best. But is my demanding too much of them actually encouraging them to be their best or is it just stressing them out?

In the Six-Step Reframe, the next question one would ask is, “Is there another way you can achieve encouraging others to do their best that doesn’t involved stressing them out?”

The answer, “Yes, I could encourage and praise them instead.”

Now let’s look at an example of a proper reframe situation.

The statement: “I wasn’t being careful and I lost my cell phone.”

The reframe: “Now I’ll be less distracted when spending time with my kids.”

Yes, the situation sucks. We all know how bad it is when we lose our cell phone. But, we can’t change the fact that we lost our cell phone so we might as well find a positive that can come from it. Additionally, when we can reframe it, we can be less angry, sad or hopeless about the situation.

So how do you know when you are trying to reframe or justify? Reframe = good; Justify = bad.

When we justify we are generally trying to make an excuse for our bad behavior. If I can find a way to justify, i.e. make a bad behavior acceptable I don’t have to change it.

We we reframe we are taking a bad situation and finding a use from it.

One is a behavior, one is a situation.

When you start a reframe with a bad behavior, the only direction to go is into the Six-Step Reframe. When you go into Six-Step Reframe, you are led right into the your psychological attachments.

Your initial statement is your complaint of your bad behavior. Your positive intention is your goal.

So let’s look at how that relates to a psychological attachment:

We will take the original statement, “I demand too much of others.”

Positive intention,”When I demand too much from others it helps them be their best.”

Question, ” Why is this a problem?”

Answer, “Because it makes people angry at me and not want to come around me.”

Question, “And you don’t like that?”

Answer, “No, I want people to want to be around me.”

Question, “Then why do you it?”

I’m sure you can come up with a bunch of responses to that from I just always have to I have no idea to I can’t help it.

So, you can see that this person’s positive intention is their goal. They truly want to help people. But what they get is rejection. So their behavior, even though they have justified that is acceptable, is actually only helping to seek rejection.

Our psychological attachments are often disguised by good intentions.

Now when we can apply the Six-Step Reframe to the behavior, we can see that if they found a different way to achieve the result the desire, they would be receiving acceptance instead. Let’s look at that scenario.

Question, “When you want to help others be their best what do you do?”

Answer,”I encourage them and tell them how great they are doing.”

Question, “How do others react to you?”

Answer, “It makes them feel good and want to be around me more.”

Question, “How does that make you feel?”

Answer, “Accepted.”




When a person is upset about an unpleasant experience, the feeling may not be based on what is happening externally but on the meaning attached to it internally.  So, we want to encourage clients to change the meaning of an experience in a way that allows them to rethink their initial response to it.

Reframing is based on that premise. To reframe something is to change its meaning by putting it in a different setting, context, or frame. Just as we can change our response to a piece of art by placing it in a different frame, we can change our response to an experience by looking at it from a different perspective – effectively reframing the experience.

A perfect example occurred recently. The online class I was assigned to teach was canceled. My first response was disappointment. My reframe was “I am disappointed about not teaching the class, but I now have more time to write articles and develop my website.”

Maria makes an appointment with an NLP practitioner because she is not able to control her drinking as much as she would like. She is a real estate agent and likes to meet with clients over a glass of wine after showing them a house. Her plan is to answer questions about the property for an hour and then leave.

Invariably, though, she orders more drinks and spends the evening chatting with them. Maria is embarrassed about the excessive drinking and furious with herself for “wasting” time.

When asked what else her behavior could mean, she replied the chatting is an attempt to build a relationship with the client and improve her chances of making the sale. Once she understood the positive intent of the drinking, we were able to discuss other more acceptable options. One strategy that may be effective is to the Six- Step reframe.

Identify the problem behavior.
MARIA:  The problem behavior is drinking too much when meeting with clients.

Identify the positive intention behind the behavior.
MARIA:  The positive intent of the behavior is to further build rapport with the client and ultimately to sell the house.

Ask “if there were other ways of accomplishing this positive intention, would you be interested in discovering them?”
MARIA:  Yes!

Brainstorm other ways of building rapport with a client and making a sale without drinking too much. 
MARIA: I could meet clients at a place where alcohol is not served, such as Starbucks.
We could stay at the house a little longer and go nowhere.
I could establish boundaries with the bartender ahead of time. For example, my instructions might be to serve only one glass of wine per adult when I come in with clients.
I could develop a checklist. Completion of all items on the list would be a signal to end the meeting.
I could schedule a hypothetical appointment directly afterward, which would be an excuse to leave.
I could hire a coach. A coach would teach me better management skills and ways to explore additional options.

Identify at least three new choices from the list.
MARIA: I like the idea of working with a coach. I can set a limit with the bartender ahead of time and I can schedule another appointment, even if it is with my cat.

Conduct an Ecology Check or in other words, examine objections and assess for commitment.
MARIA:  There are no objections. I can still meet with the client over a glass of wine after showing them a house and learn to manage myself better.  This feels like a win-win.

This is one way to use the strategies of reframing, positive intention, and the six-step reframe.

DMN, New Behavior Generator, and Future Pacing

In this article, we will discuss a hypothetical case in which the default mode network (DMN) and the New Behavior Generator strategies are used with a client.

Beth is a 55-year-old woman with an established marketing career. Her children are grown and her partner is the CFO of a successful company. Financially, they are comfortable. She recently retired after 30 years in the marketing field. Since then, she spends more and more time playing tennis and touring wineries with friends. While the drinking is not a problem, she wants to be involved in activities more meaningful to her.

Beth came to see me, an NLP Master Practitioner, because she wants to develop an online consulting business. In fact, this business has been her dream for years. She has attempted to develop the website numerous times without success. However, her many excuses for not starting the project and her doubts that she can be successful stop her every time.

As with every client in the initial session, I did the following:
Built rapport.
Identified the positive intent of the behavior.
Conducted the Outcome Specification and the Logical Level exercises as an assessment.
Asked Meta Model Questions to clarify vagueness.
Planned a strategy to move forward.

Her goal is to create a successful online consulting business.

She will achieve her goal when she has five paying clients.

The goal is relevant in several ways: she will be happier, she will be involved in a productive endeavor, and she will feel good about herself.

Her fears and doubts about being successful stop her from pursuing her goal. She is plagued with thoughts like “I don’t know how to develop a website,” “I might fail,” and “the website might not be good enough to draw clients.”

Current resources include her years of experience, money and time to invest in the project, and a supportive husband.

Necessary additional resources include a website developer, a marketing plan, and improved communication skills.

The important people in her life would be thrilled even if it took her time and energy because she would be happy.

Daily actions she must take are to work on a plan, learn better communication skills, and manage her negative self-talk.

She thinks the goal is worth it, despite knowing the website will take enormous time and effort.
She says the positive intent of her reluctance to develop the website is her fear of failing.


Environment Level – refers to what is around her when the behavior occurs. 
Beth: When I sit at the computer ready to create my website.

Behavior Level – refers to what she does.
Beth:  I sit at the computer and think of things I “should” do such as exercise or call a friend.  I also think of all the reasons why this project will never work.

Capability Level refers to what she is able to do.
Beth: I have time. I want a website and online business. I have years of experience and plenty of good ideas.  I can work from home.

Belief Level – refers to what she thinks she can or should do. 
Beth: I want a website, but something always gets in the way.

Identity Level – refers to who she thinks she is. 
Beth: I am a successful business woman who is afraid to start something new.

I chose to work with Beth at the Belief Level because once her beliefs change, the Capabilities Level, the Behavior Level, and the Environment Level will likely change as well. Two strategies, I can use with her are the Default Mode Network (DMN) and the New Behavior Generator. However there are many other possibilities.

The default mode network (DMN) is an internal network in the brain that continually generates a wealth of mental activity and body tension. When the “task-oriented” brain is not focused on solving a problem, the DMN works overtime. While it does not filter information or attempt to protect a person in any way, it does generate endless mental and emotional data, as well as negative and scary thoughts.

To disengage the DMN, we use two NLP forms: the Stressor Map and The New Awareness Map.  I asked Beth to write the word “Website” at the top of the Stressor Map and, then, to record every thought and idea that came to mind as she thought about developing the website. She wrote the following:

I’m not knowledgable enough to create a website.
The website will take energy.
I don’t know how.
The website won’t be special enough.
The project will cost money.
I have money.
I have done similar work for years.
I do have experience.
My husband supports me.
I don’t want to use my time wine tasting and playing tennis.
I want to see if I can do it.
I might fail.
The website has been a long time dream.
I have no plan.
It will take a lot of time and energy.
I am tired and too old to start something new.
I don’t want to be that busy.
I might succeed.
I won’t be happy if I don’t try.
I might do it wrong.

After she completed her thoughts, I asked Beth to look out the window and focus on the movement of the water on the lake. This external stimulus created a break state and cleansed her mind. Then, I asked her to write the word “Website” at the top of the New Awareness Map and to record the thoughts and ideas that now came to mind. Beth was surprised to find she had very different, more positive thoughts. Her responses were as follows:

I could dedicate a certain amount of time and money to develop the project.
I could research what has worked for others and what has not.
It would be fun to try.
I could hire a coach and a website designer to help me get started.
I could do my best for a year and see what happens.
If I don’t give it a solid try, I will be disappointed in myself.
My husband and my former colleagues have plenty of experience from which to draw.
I am not necessarily ready to go, but there are several pieces already in place.

Based on her new thinking, Beth decided to break the project into chunks and enlist help in the areas where she felt weak. I also guided her through the New Behavior Generator.

Beth’s Responses to the New Behavior Generator
Identity the “stuck state.”
Beth:  My stuck state is avoiding my long held dream of having an online business.

Guide her to consider the stuck state from a dissociated view point. This is achieved by Beth seeing the “stuck Beth” as a neutral observer watching a movie.
From this dissociated state I asked her to identify several choices she could take. 
Beth determined she could:
– Set aside an hour or two daily to work on the project.
– Hire a coach to help her develop a plan and learn communication skills.
– Hire a website developer to design the website.
– Give up the whole idea.
– Learn to develop the website herself.
– Take the first step and see what happens.

With each alternative, I asked the ecology question:  “What would happen if you incorporated this option into the stuck state situation?”
Beth:  She did not want to give up the idea nor did she want to develop the website. She could see herself setting aside an hour or two daily to work on the project.  She wanted to continue to work with me as a coach and to hire a website developer.

Have her step into each image and picture using the possible options.
BETH: After stepping into each image, she realized that she needed to make a plan to move forward. This would be her First Step.

Finally, I guided Beth to Future Pace. I instructed her to:
Picture possible future situations in which she might talk herself out of working on the site. For instance, her friend asks her to play tennis, she gets discouraged with the process, the bird cage needs cleaning, or she wants to give up.

Imagine stepping into each situation – by seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and/or tasting what she would experience if the new skills were in place.

Notice whether or not the change holds, and whether or not she responded the way she wanted to respond.
Beth felt that besides plan development, she could learn motivation strategies and communication skills during our coaching sessions. She also thought, the website developer’s ideas would build enthusiasm for the project.

As a starting point, I taught Beth about anchors. I suggested she think of a time when she completed a project and felt pride and confidence. I instructed her to anchor the feeling by pressing the fingers of her left hand to her lips. We repeated the anchor several times until the feeling of accomplishment was strong.

Finally, I had her Future Pace and think of times where she might get distracted and then use the anchor.

These are strategies I might use, but there are many other possibilities.


Katya was a 19 year old college student who came to see me because she was 25 pounds overweight and couldn’t stop eating. She didn’t want to be like her mother who was obese. My goal was to motivate her to change her eating habits using NLP strategies of which we will discuss a few. When I asked what the positive intent of the overeating might be, Katya admitted she ate to relieve stress and to be social.

One of my first steps was to assess how she motivated herself. Based on her presenting problem, I determined that she was moving away from stress and being lonely.

Furthermore, according to Steve and Connierae Andreas,   Katya was a:

Negative motivator – She imagined the horrible consequences of not doing something about her weight gain before it was totally out of control.

The Dictator – She gave herself orders to stop overeating. She said to herself “I should stop,” and “I can’t gain any more weight.”

Overwhelmer – Her goal was to lose 25 pounds, which seemed unsurmountable.

The first step was to break the goal down into several smaller ones – like losing a couple of pounds a month or whatever was reasonable for her.

Another strategy I used was the Swish Pattern. The Swish Pattern allows the person to replace a negative image with a more positive, motivating one. The steps are as follows:
1. Identify the unwanted behavior or habit.

2. Define and recognize a cue image, or reminder that can be used when the unwanted behavior occurs.

3. Recall a desired self-image that is more compelling than the image triggering the unwanted behavior.

4. Check ecology to see if any part of the mind objects to adopting the new image.

5. Do a “swish” by remembering the problem behavior cue image and locating a small dark picture of the desired compelling self-image in the corner of the mind.

6. Make the Swish by rapidly decreasing and darkening the cue image and simultaneously making the desired self-image larger and brighter.

7. Test by thinking of the cue image for the problem state and noticing what happens. If the swish is effective, the desired self-image will immediately replace the old one, resulting in a change of state and loss of desire for going to casinos.

Katya’s “unwanted behavior” was overeating. The cue image was her eating a piece of chocolate cake. The desired self-image she chose was standing on a scale and seeing her desired weight of 120 lbs. In doing the ecology check, there were no objections, and the swish was made.  It took several attempts until she immediately accessed the new image, but it did happen and she was excited about the image of her new weight. The real test will be the next time she wants to eat a piece of cake and whether or not the image of her new weight will elicit a different choice. If it doesn’t we will work on alternative images or strengthening the one she chose.

Lastly, I asked Katya to future pace. She identified situations where she might overeat such as
• Studying with classmates.
• A friend offering her a piece of pie.
• Walking by a bakery.

She pictured each situation and swished it with the image of her weight on the scale. Katya felt fairly confident that she could say no in each situation.

This gave her a couple of strategies to begin with, but more in-depth and/or additional work may be required.

DMN and Outcome Specification

Two effective NLP strategies are the DMN and the Outcome Specification process.  I will review them briefly and then provide a case in which they are applied.

The default mode is a function of the so named “resting” brain. The term may be inappropriate, though, because when parts of the brain stop functioning, other areas become active. These areas are identified as the default mode network or the DMN.

Most people experience times when they are completely absorbed in a task and the time flies.   Then the DMN is shut down. Other times, people are bored and unable to focus on anything because their minds are wandering. Their wandering mind dwells on concerns and replays scenarios, pondering what they could or should have done differently. Then the DMN is active.

The Outcome Specification
Many clients are unclear about what they want; so the nine-question Outcome Specification provides a summary of the client’s goals, as well as his or her dedication to those goals.

Kim Lee is a 65-year old woman who comes to see an NLP Coach because she fears driving her car.

Although she has driven for years with few tickets or accidents, her growing fear interferes with her willingness to go places and do things.

I built rapport with Kim Lee, identified the positive intent of the behavior, which was to feel less anxious, and asked Meta model questions. Then she was ready to work on the presenting issue using the techniques introduced above.

Taming the Default Mode Network

I asked Kim Lee to write the phrase “driving a car” on a blank piece of paper and  to record her thoughts

Her Responses 
I might have an accident.
I might get lost.
I might make a mistake.
I get so anxious when I think about driving.
Driving scares me.
The fear gets in my way.
The more I don’t drive, the more anxious I become.
I find every excuse not to drive.
My grandson’s drive everywhere.
It’s all in my mind.
I don’t know how to break the fear.
Feel the fear and do it anyway.
I find every excuse not to drive.
I get others to do drive as often as possible.
Others will criticize my driving; telling me I should do this, or I drive too slowly.
I am not good with direction.
I don’t read maps well.

After Kim Lee completed the list, I asked her to focus on her breathing, which allowed her mind to calm.

I asked Kim-Lee to re-write the phrase “driving the car” on a second blank piece of paper and record her thoughts. She was surprised to find different thoughts came to mind.

You’ve driven for 40 years and had one minor accident. That is a great record.
What you are saying to yourself – how about a different self-message?
You are scaring yourself.
You are a very cautious and conscientious driver.
Go early and drive in the slow lane- Don’t pressure yourself.
Have confidence in yourself.
You have a GPS and a “Maps” app for your Smart Phone.

Now that Kim Lee had a more positive perspective, I conducted the Outcome Specification process with her. The questions and her responses are listed below.

What do you want?
Kim Lee: I want to drive confidently and calmly by myself or with others in the car.

How will you know when you have reached the goal?
Kim Lee: When I am doing more driving.

Why is your goal relevant and/or irrelevant?
Kim Lee:  The goal is relevant because I don’t want to be dependent on others and sometimes, I want to go places by myself.

What stops you from pursuing the goal wholeheartedly?
Kim Lee:  My fear whenever the topic of my driving comes up.

What personal resources can you use to help achieve this goal?
Kim Lee:  I have driven for years and had only a couple of minor accidents. I am conscientious and careful.

What additional resources will you need to achieve your goal?
Kim Lee: Positive self talk, confidence and practice.

How can the goal affect important people in your life, or what risk is associated with achieving this goal?
Kim Lee: My family would be pleased if I were able to do my part. I could have an accident.

What daily actions will you need to take in order to achieve your goal, and what is the first step?
Kim Lee: Drive short distances to build confidence.
The FIRST STEP: is to change my self talk and manage the fear.

Given everything you have considered to this point, is achieving the goal worth it?
Kim Lee:  It would be. I am just not sure, I can do it.

Given that Kim Lee was still hesitant, I began teaching her strategies such as anchoring and Submodality techniques for managing the fear. We agree to continue working on the goal she wants to reach.

Dissociation, Creating an Empowering Anchor, and New Behavior Generator

The term “state” refers to a person’s subjective experience of oneself and the world at a given point in time.

Typical positive states include happiness, frustration, and relaxation. Typical negative stages include anger, sadness, and guilt.  Each state elicits different behaviors or reactions to similar situations. In other words, if a person is in a happy state a missed appointment would be a nuisance, but if the person were in an angry state the same missed appointment would be infuriating.

A state can be either associated or dissociated. In an associated state, a person experiences self and the world from a feeling of happiness. In a disassociated state, the person watches him or herself being happy.

There are times when each is appropriate. The challenge is to choose wisely.

Possible Strategies
As an NLP Practitioner, there are many possible strategies to use when working with a person experiencing a negative state such as worry. Let’s focus on three strategies: dissociation, creating an empowering anchor, and the new behavior generator.

Ways to Dissociate
-Imagine seeing the self standing on the other side of the room and observe the self.
-Watch the self as if watching a movie.
– Refer to the self in the third person while describing the state.
– Listen to the self discussing the state as if the self were across the room.
– Consider the following questions
– What is this really about?
– What is the big picture here?
– How would this appear from an objective point of view?

Steps to Create an Empowering Anchor
– Choose a feeling or state.
– Think of a time when a preferred state occurred and anchor the feeling by connecting it to a specific physical action.
– Go to a neutral place.
– Test the connection to determine whether or not the preferred feeling occurs.

If the new feeling is not strong enough, repeat the process until it elicits the feeling or try a different physical or visual anchor.

New Behavior Generator
– Identify a stuck state in which a person has limited choices.
– Consider the state from a disassociated viewpoint – as if a natural observer watching from afar.
– Identify several behaviors which would be more beneficial.
– While in the disassociated state, watch what happens as new behaviors are tried.
– Associate the most promising behavior by stepping into the image to see if the behavior is managed more effectively.
– Future pace by practicing the new behavior in situations which may occur.

Hypothetical Case Regarding Excessive Worry
Andrea seeks counseling because she worries excessively.  She looks at what might go wrong and expects to lose. She is stuck in negativity and doubts, which she alleviates by using marijuana. Smoking weed works to a degree; however, Andrea wants to learn strategies for managing the worry which do not include using drugs.

Because Andrea’s smoking appears to be triggered by excessive worrying, I decide to focus on her worry in an initial attempt to resolve the problem.

After I built rapport, assessed the situation using the Outcome Specification and Logical Levels exercises, identified the positive intent of the behavior, and asked Meta Model questions, it is time to get started.

Initially, I taught Andrea ways to dissociate. She decided upon the following:
She watched herself reaching for a joint as if she were watching a movie.
She decided to refer to herself in the third person while describing the problem.
The question which really stuck with her was “What is this really about?  Andrea realized that she had little self-confidence.

I then taught Andrea to create an empowering anchor.
The feeling/state Andrea chose to work on was worrying.
She recalled how confident she felt the day she graduated from college.
I guided her to physically anchor the feeling of confidence by rubbing her hands together as she thought of the graduation.
I then instructed her to focus on her breathing to break the state.
We tested the connection to determine whether or not the preferred feeling occurred.
The feeling of confidence was there but weak. Andrea repeated the process several times until she felt strong confidence.
Finally, I led Andrea through the steps of the New Behavior Generator
Andrea’s stuck state was worrying, which she relieved by smoking weed.
She saw herself worrying and smoking as if she were watching a movie.

She identified several behaviors more beneficial than smoking weed to resolve the worrying. She identified the following:
– Talk to someone.
– Go for a walk or participate in some form of exercise.
– Write down her worries.
– Dissociate from worries by seeing them in the distance or changing their submodalities.
– Do something else such as read a book.

She tried each new behavior and determined that baking cookies and walking wouldn’t work. However, she felt that talking to someone, writing down the worries, and dissociating from the worries could be helpful.

She stepped into the image of herself worrying and smoking. She pictured herself as she talked with someone, wrote down the worries, and dissociated. Each strategy seemed to lessen the worry and the need to smoke.

The final step was to test the new behavior by having her picture times in the future when she might be worried, such as when a class assignment was due or when she was overwhelmed with work and had her picture one of the new strategies. She seemed to feel calmer and she had not smoked weed.

There was more to do but this was a start.