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Reframing Your Perspective with M&Ms

adamgrant adaption perspective reframing tedtalks thinkagain Aug 03, 2022

I used to work for M&M Mars in quality control. The rejects were mine to eat. I got fired for throwing away each M&M with a W, 3, E or B on it. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t understand the problem.  

There was no melting their perspective. Reframing was needed, and it’s much more than Forrest Gump’s line: If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

I’ll add a wrinkle. It means looking for multiple perspectives. Emotion often keeps us stuck in one view. Adapting sometimes means backing away from strong and long-held assumptions. That’s scary. Changing course makes us feel vulnerable and unsafe. It creates a fear of power loss — being called a liar and idiot, or getting turned into a flip-flop.

You are faced with a situation with no great choices. They all suck. It’s like when I had to tell one of my clients he had bad body odor. There’s no good way.  No matter the choice you make, something stinky happens.

Here’s a take. Before deciding your best options, challenge yourself to look at the situation from at least four different perspectives. If there are multiple stakeholders (not the kind that hold up tents), look at it from each of their perspectives. Impose artificial limitations to potential adjustments. Change the angle at which you look at, like I did with the M&Ms. The M could have been a W, 3, E or B.

Look at difficult situations head on, upside down, and with relaxed or more rigid rules. You may see things differently and find adjustments. 

A great resource for reframing is Adam Grant’s book Think Again, as well as his four TED Talks.  

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