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Jumping From the Frying Pan into the Fire

Cinergy Coaching by Cinnie Noble

It happens in conflict that things frequently escalate in a way that results in the other person or us making things worse. The expression “jumping from the frying pan into the fire” applies here as an idiom that generally means escaping a bad situation for a worse situation. According to one source, “it was made the subject of a 15th-century fable that eventually entered the Aesopic canon”. Here is the story in brief:

“The Italian author Laurentius Abstemius wrote a collection of 100 fables, the Hecatomythium, during the 1490s. This included some based on popular idioms and proverbs of the day. Abstemius’ fable 20, De piscibus e sartigine in prunas desilentibus, concerns some fish thrown live into a frying pan of boiling fat. One of them urges its fellows to save their lives by jumping out, but when they do so they fall into the burning coals and curse its bad advice. The fabulist concludes: ‘This fable warns us that when we are avoiding present dangers, we should not fall into even worse peril.’ The tale was included in Latin collections of Aesop’s fables from the following century onwards but the first person to adapt it into English was Roger L’Estrange in 1692.”

Other interpretations and versions followed and the expression is still used by some today to refer to actions, words, etc. that take an incident from bad to worse, as sometimes happens in conflict situations.

The ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) blog this week invites readers to consider when you have jumped from the frying pan into the fire, even inadvertently.

Considering a conflict in which the expression – jumping from the frying pan into the fire – applies to you, what is the situation? What did you do that applies to this idiom?

What propelled your jump?

What specifically was bad about the situation in the first place when you jumped?

What did the frying pan represent?

What happened that made the situation worse?

What did the fire represent?

What may you have done instead of jumping into the fire?

What do you think stopped you?

What result would you have preferred?

Where else may you have jumped to achieve that preferred result?

What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?


Cinnie Noble

Cinnie Noble is a certified coach (PCC) and mediator and a former lawyer specializing in conflict management coaching. She is the author of two coaching books: Conflict Management Coaching: The CINERGY™ Model and Conflict Mastery: Questions to Guide You. MORE >

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