Look at a situation differently, and the situation may change. A change in perspective is the basic concept behind a technique called reframing. Oncology nurses can change the way they view workplace situations or personality conflicts by using reframing.

When viewed negatively, workplace situations and personality conflicts can affect nurses’ performance by pulling their attention away from the task at hand. We need to understand, however, that the story we tell ourselves about these distractors is simply a story. Everyone has their own story, and when we get caught up in the correctness of our story, we have little reason to change our view or reframe the situation. Reframing can lead to a new perspective—one that can create space for solutions to perceived problems or, at a minimum, help descale the emotional attachment to a situation.

What Research Tells Us

Avoidance, competition, and compromise are ineffective ways to address conflicting emotions. Even collaboration, if done so begrudgingly, can lead to resentment and less willingness to see another person’s viewpoint. Conflict in the workplace can arise from personality clashes, lack of role clarity, and heavy workloads.

Researchers asked employees to evaluate interactions with coworkers four times during a day and rate the interactions as either negative or positive. The data showed that when interactions were viewed as negative, a person’s overall mood was five times more likely to be affected than when interactions were perceived as positive.

Sometimes reframing is unexpected. For example, seeing a coworker taking the time to walk a feeble patient to the car or comforting a grieving family member can soften your frustration over the coworker’s chronically delayed email responses to issues you feel are important.

Intentional reframes, also referred to as cognitive reappraisal, can supersede an emotional reaction to a situation. Contemplating questions like what does the other person stand to gain or what are they protecting can stimulate a new perspective, giving way to potentially understanding another perspective without threat to your own.