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Reframing: There is a Better Way to Say It

Updated on January 2, 2015

Good Communication is Key

During my career I was responsible for Call Center Operations supporting customer inquiries. One of the developmental tools we utilized was customer call observation. In order to gather coaching tips for the reps, periodically my manager team and I would remotely observe customer calls. Although this is practice can be viewed as controversial, it proved to be an invaluable coaching tool for the reps, and for my managers. Supporting rep performance, training opportunities were identified and addressed. We also identified ways to improve our own communication skills. Many messages are not easy to deliver. For example, responding to a customer (or even to an employee) who has requested something the company is unable to accommodate can be difficult. There is a better way to say, “we can’t do that”.

Customer Call Center
Customer Call Center | Source

Introducing Reframing

Rather than more “top down” instructions from the managers to the reps, I devised a more creative way to ensure buy-in from the reps. With a stack of index cards, I typed a less favorable statements on one side of the card and the more constructive “reframed” version on the other side. We had some fun reviewing them in small groups and even gained benefit with allowing time for individual review. Soon we had painlessly reconditioned ourselves to use the not the volatile statements, but to use the revised more amiable version.

Take Away a New Way

Check out my chart below with the information from my index cards. I actually observed many statements listed in the second column. Additionally, I included a category column (applicable with). Whether you are talking to your boss, employees, kids, or a store clerk, there is a better way to say it! If you form that thought completely before you speak, your message can be delivered in a positive way.

(click column header to sort results)
Applicable With  
Original Statement  
"Reframed" Statement  
What are you going to do about being late all the time?
Let's talk about improving your punctuality.
Employees, customers
There is no way we can do that.
Let me tell you what we CAN do.
You don't want to buy it do you?
Would you like to buy it?
What do you want?
How can I help you?
You're here again?
It's nice to see you again.
Now what do you need?
Can I help you with something?
That is none of your business.
I don't feel comfortable telling you that.
You don't have a job?
Do you work outside the home?
What is it that you don't understand?
Which part is most difficult?
You think that is difficult?
Which part is most difficult?
Now what's wrong?
Is everything OK?
You made another mistake.
Everyone makes mistakes sometimes.
How many times do you have to be told about that?
I can explain that in a different way.
You can't do anything right.
Try doing it this way.
You're still not finished?
You've been working so hard, are you almost finished?
Doesn't she know anything?
She still has things to learn.
You are being so unfair.
I know you want to be fair.
You don't know how to do that?
Have you done that before?
You always need help.
Do you need some help?
Can't you do anything right?
You can do it right. Try again.
Can't you do anything yourself?
Can I help you with that?
I don't know why you can't understand it.
It can be difficult to understand.
Why don't you try smiling for once?
Sometimes smiling can make you feel better.
Can't you ever be quiet?
It is time to be quiet.
Are you deaf?
Am I speaking too softly?
Don't run.
Please walk.
Now what have you broken?
Did it break?
You're a liar.
Is that really the truth?
Why can't you take turns?
It is so nice when you take turns.
I hate that song.
I would love to hear a different song.


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    • Peyton Parker profile image

      Peyton Parker 3 years ago from San Antonio, TX

      Thanks for your comment :)

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 3 years ago

      Am interesting list. It could benefit many.