by Tad Mayer

Let’s say you meet with a friend after work and you tell her about your day, “My boss doesn’t listen to me, my team is lazy, even if we do get the project done — what difference will it make in the world, so why should I really care?”

A typical response is, “Wow,sounds like a tough day. I know exactly what you’re going through. Yesterday….” And the other person is pulling it to be about them. What if instead your friend takes a second and then says, “That must be really hard for you. It sounds like you want a job where your boss listens to you, your team is driven, you feel you have a valuable purpose, and the work is fulfilling. Is that right?”

I imagine you would feel like saying something like, “Yeah, you’re right! That is what I want.” She has helped you identify some items that are really important to you in a fulfilling job. In our experience as career coaches, my two co-authors and I of the forthcoming book, Own the Job Hunt, we’ve seen this shift the tone of conversations from negative, hopeless, and in the past to valuable, hopeful, and looking toward the future.

This is a not a Jedi mind trick. And, it does not magically make all problems go away. But, re-framing is a tool to change the process from complaining to solving, from despair to hope. As career coaches, we use re-framing to help clients focus on what’s truly important to them in a job or their career (instead of just what they don’t like about their current roles), so that we can investigate professional options to fulfill those needs.

And, re-framing can be used to help in daily conversations. It can enable you to help those around you (and yourself) realize what’s truly important to them (and you). That understanding fuels options to meet those needs for them (and for you). Let’s say you and your partner are talking about going away for a weekend. He says, “I want to go to Western Massachusetts, go biking so we can get in the woods, stay in a quaint bed and breakfast, eat a great meal at a steak place, and invite Pam and Ricky so we can catch up.”

Pretty specific, right? Let’s say you have some similar, but different ideas. You want to get out into the woods, stay someplace fun, eat well, and see some friends, but you also want to go someplace new, maybe not bike, save some money, and spend time alone with your partner. So, you say, “So you want to escape to the woods, stay in a place that’s fun and has character, eat well, and spend some time with friends to catch-up. Is that right?”

After she agrees, you reply, “I’ve got a couple of different hopes, and I think there are ways we can create a trip that will work for both of us. How about if we go to the Adirondacks, where we’ve never been before, take our bikes and hiking

equipment and figure out when we get there which we want to do, look into small inns, Air B&Bs, and bed and breakfasts and see what we like the best and is least expensive, and get together for dinner with Paul and Nicole on Friday night because we haven’t caught up with them in a long time, they live north of Albany, and that would give us Saturday night to have a date — just the two of us?

By re-framing what your partner said to his interests (needs, motivations,and aspirations) instead of just reiterating the specific options he laid out, it allows you to overlay your interests and come up with options that meet both of your motivations. He may counter on an item or two, in which case you pull out his interests again, share yours, and come up with more options.

Whether it’s your career or relationships, re-frame to understand what they want and what you want, so that you can get what you both need.

Tad Mayer is a co-author of the forthcoming book, Own the Job Hunt, as well as career coach, trainer, and speaker, and an executive coach. He empowers clients to pivot between fields, advance within companies and industries, and overcome leadership hurdles. He has taught negotiation as an Adjunct Professor at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University. You can reach him at