Tag Archives: framing

Persuasion Skills, Reframing, and How to Survive Tough Conversations Post-Thanksgiving Dinner

What to do: frame your position in terms of the moral values of the person that you are trying to persuade.  The problem? Its hard.

Why do we find moral reframing so challenging? There are a number of reasons. You might find it off-putting to endorse values that you don’t hold yourself. You might not see a link between your political positions and your audience’s values. And you might not even know that your audience endorses different values from your own. But whatever the source of the gulf, it can be bridged with effort and consideration.

Maybe reframing political arguments in terms of your audience’s morality should be viewed less as an exercise in targeted, strategic persuasion, and more as an exercise in real, substantive perspective taking. To do it, you have to get into the heads of the people you’d like to persuade, think about what they care about and make arguments that embrace their principles. If you can do that, it will show that you view those with whom you disagree not as enemies, but as people whose values are worth your consideration.

Source: The Key to Political Persuasion – The New York Times

So a main takeaway is to let go of your own views and develop a strategic view on how your opponents could possible believe in it. Its not easy to do this.Try it on these hot-button issues:

  • same-sex marriage
  • gun control
  • allow immigrant refugees/migrants into your _______ (state/country)

The skill of reframing has obvious uses for politics and diplomacy. But its also important for business. As Karim Benammer and Bernd-Jan Hilberts observe, Mauritius can be seen as a small insignificant island facing rising sea levels–as well as a headquarters amidst a huge ocean area with sustainable ocean mining opportunities and a”high leverage economy.” Here’s the work:

The idea of reframing isn’t new but the recent insights into moral framing come from studies produced by Robb Willer, a Stanford sociologist and Matthew Feinberg of the University of Toronto and were published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

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Framing Poverty

One word  doesn’t seem to work for politicians: poverty.  (It also appears to be a problem on the global level, as well, noted in the Finding Frames report that critiques the “aid solves poverty” narrative.

Johnson used the word “poverty” nine times in his 1964 address. Most other presidents use the word a maximum of two times during their states of the union, and many don’t use it at all, a fact which bothers Abramsky.

“There’s almost an invisibilizing of poverty in this country,” Abramsky said. “You saw it in 2012, in the Presidential election. It’s during a period when tens of millions of Americans are struggling massively. They’ve lost their middle-class footholds and they are falling into what can only realistically be described as lives of poverty. But the language in 2012 was all about the struggling middle class. It wasn’t even about the working poor.”

via American presidents and the rhetoric of poverty | Marketplace.org.

But how use it matters, as well. As UCLA political scientist Shanto Iyengar pointed out, when the media “frame poverty as a general outcome” then it becomes a social issue but “poverty as a particular instance of a poor person” becomes someone else’s problem.

The Frameworks Institute has a short online course, “A Beginner’s Guide to Strategic Frame Analysis” that is worth exploring if you are interested in developing your own framing skills.

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Adaptive Leadership: A Fresh Take on What Works

How you think about leadership in political contexts needs a refresh according to Ronald Heifetz of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. This approach, called “adaptive leadership,” can be found starting with his 1994 book Leadership Without Easy Answers.

The dominant view of leadership is that the leader has the vision and the rest is a sales problem. I think that notion of leadership is bankrupt.

Heifetz trained as a psychiatrist, and describes his view of effective leadership with an analogy from medicine. “When a patient comes to a surgeon, the surgeon’s default setting is to say, ‘You’ve got a problem? I’ll take the problem off your shoulders and I’ll deliver back to you a solution.’ In psychiatry, when a person comes to you with a problem, it’s not your job actually to solve their problem. It’s your job to develop their capacity to solve their own problem.”

via Lessons In Leadership: It’s Not About You. (It’s About Them) : NPR.

Leadership is painful because it involves addressing realities that many organizations and individuals want to avoid.  It also deals with reframing, conflict, and persuasion–all difficult challenges that challenges the dominant view of leaders as fast talkers who “tell people what to do.”

What skills will you need to be an adaptive leaders? In an interview with Fast Company, Heifetz explains, in a must read short course:

  • Develop a stomach for conflict and uncertainty with “an experimental mind-set” to accept failure
  • Active listening “fueled by curiosity and empathy”
  • Check your “grandiosity” at the door.  Feeling important is natural, but  thinking we have all the answers is a problem.
  • Survival in an organization or career requires you to not take things personally.

His approach warrants much more discussion and reading, so take a look at these sources:

 

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Will the U.S. Default? Negotiating Away the Threat

In DealBook, Andrew Ross Sorkin explains why default can’t occur–and then why it may:

“As political theater,” he said, “the debt ceiling is not a useful threat, because politicians are basically threatening to shoot themselves, as they will rightly shoulder the blame for the serious global economic consequences of a default.”

Mr. Reinhart’s view has become conventional wisdom on Wall Street when it comes to whether the country will hit the debt ceiling limit on Oct. 17. Warren Buffett put it this way: “We’ll go right up to the point of extreme idiocy, but we won’t cross it.”

Nobody believes the country will actually exceed the debt limit — which is exactly why it might.

via No Way U.S. Would Allow Debt Default? Don’t Bet on It – NYTimes.com.

So, let’s get back to the negotiation side of this:  what can be done to solve the problem?  Now Wharton’s experts are weighing in on how to craft a deal that will work–and avoid the U.S. self-imposed crash:

Wharton legal studies and business ethics professor G. Richard Shell:

  • Ask Presidents Clinton and Bush to co-mediate the dispute.

  • Devise an “unacceptable penalty” that would kick in if the two sides fail to reach an agreement by a set date. For example, begin permanently closing all national parks.

  • Change the negotiators: i.e., replace Obama and Boehner with a new representative from each party – people who still trust one another.

  • Invite participation by an authoritative and neutral third party that would structure a process for resolving the dispute. The government would return to work and the default would be delayed for three months while this process took place.

  • Ask the mayor of a small U.S. town – a political Independent from a swing state — to invite Obama and Boehner for a “backyard beer” to discuss the situation and come up with a solution.

  • Punt the issue down the road again by making an agreement that lasts only three months and then work on one of the other options on this list.

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A Negotiation Guide for Republicans

Yes, it has the makings of a classic movie Mexican-standoff.  But the debt deal that pits a Tea Party-infused Republican party against a President who talks about negoitating with Putin (but not his opposition party!) have a good bit of work ahead of them.  How to proceed?

In Bloomberg View, Rohit Kumar offers advice to the Grand ol’ Party:

As the former deputy chief of staff for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, I spent many nights and weekends in the Capitol helping broker the last three fiscal agreements between Congress and the Obama administration: the 2010 extension of the George W. Bush tax cuts, the 2011 debt limit increase and the 2013 fiscal cliff deal. These talks have a rhythm, and what we’re seeing now is a predictable pre-negotiation alignment by the two sides.

Obama’s refusal to negotiate is pure posturing, an opening bid. The president seems to hope congressional Republicans will move from their preferred starting position — repealing Obamacare and securing budget savings equal to the amount of the debt-limit increase — to a middle ground that will “force” him to come to the table. Republicans could seek a delay of the individual and employer insurance mandate, the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, or both, instead of a full repeal of the health-care law. The more reasonable the Republicans’ request is, the harder it will be for the president to refuse to engage them.

via How Republicans Can Win Debt Fight – Bloomberg.

The strategy is based on the notion that there is a solid constituency for Tea Party Republicans to do what they say they will do–namely, shrink the Federal government by any means necessary.

And then rather than talk about deficits, Greece, entitlements, and how the size of government is unsustainable, Republicans should go the optimistic route; talking about how the federal government’s loss is the private sector’s certain gain. Indeed, they should talk about how much more we’ll have, including many more Microsofts, Intels, and Apple AAPL +1.15% products that will make the iPad seem dated, if the size and cost of government shrinks. They should talk about how Henry Ford’s quite speedy ability to mass produce the once unimaginable luxury that was the automobile was directly related to his being able to retain Ford Motor F +2.25% Company’s profits in order to re-invest in the perfection of car manufacture. They should talk about how Jeff Bezos, Fred Smith and Warren Buffett are much better allocators of capital than are John Boehner, Harry Reid and Barack Obama.

It doesn’t take a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag to make you appreciate this approach? None other than MSNBC Harball’s Chris Matthews calls the Ted Cruz strategy “genius” for its clarity of purpose and chances for success.

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The ‘genius’ of neoconservatism | Stephen M. Walt

How can neocons wreck the US by getting it into wars it cannot afford nor need–and then maintain influence nonetheless in the corridors of power.  Bottom line? Its all about how you sell it.  (They appear to wielding disproportionate influence over Mitt Romney, hence foreign policy realist and professor Stephen Walt explains the strategy).

Interestingly enough, this tactic has some grounding in behavioral economics. In a justifiably famous experiment reported in the Journal of Marketing Research, Itamar Simonson and Amos Tversky showed that consumer choices were powerfully influenced by “framing effects,” and in particular, by the set of choices that the test subjects were given. When the subjects were offered a choice between a cheap camera with relatively few features and a more expensive camera with lots of them, their choices divided more-or-less evenly between the two. But when a similar group was given the same two options plus a third — an even more expensive camera with even more features — the percentage that preferred the middle choice rose dramatically. Why? Because being presented with the option of a really expensive camera made choosing the second most expensive seem less extravagant: It became the sensible “compromise” choice.

via The ‘genius’ of neoconservatism | Stephen M. Walt.

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US Politics Doesn’t End at Water’s Edge?

Partisanship aside, put on your rhetorical analysis hats.  What’s the rationale for Mitt’s statement beyond political tactical advantage:

Here is the Republican candidate for president of the United States on Wednesday, explaining why he broke into a moment of rising international tension and denounced the White House as “disgraceful” for a mild statement made by the American Embassy in Cairo about the importance of respecting other people’s religions:

“They clearly — they clearly sent mixed messages to the world. And — and the statement came from the administration — and the embassy is the administration — the statement that came from the administration was a — was a statement which is akin to apology and I think was a — a — a severe miscalculation.”

via Mitt’s Major Meltdown – NYTimes.com.

The altogether best take on this comes from David Weigel:

Still, the better analogue for Romney might be Barack Obama himself. In 2007, several times, the then-senator made foreign policy statements that were outside the polite consensus—and thus defined as “gaffes.” Obama said he’d violate Pakistani sovereignty if it would help nab terrorists. Romney, at the time, called that “ill-considered.” Obama never backed down. Later, at a debate where questions came from earnest YouTube members, Obama agreed to meet the leaders of Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela “without preconditions” in his first year as president. That, too, became part of Obama’s “foreign policy,” defended throughout the campaign. Nobody really noticed that Obama broke his promise. He’d previewed the talk-pretty-but-approve-drone-strikes strategy he’d use in office.

via Libya consulate killing: Mitt Romney’s criticism of Barack Obama on Libya and Egypt was an accurate reflection of what he really believes. – Slate Magazine.

The fact is that bipartisanship in foreign policy has a long history (perhaps).  For a country they need to stick together (or hang separately)–and that’s why this issue caused such a stir.

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Are you better off than you were four years ago? How Democrats will frame the question. – Slate Magazine

You have convince the Iranians to give up the bomb.  Make North Korea make nice with the South.  Convince Assad to go quietly.  Diplomacy is like that–tough negotiations with even tougher nations and diplomats. One key to winning the negotiation is framing.

For example, one key question that both Dems and Repubs are messaging in their own ways is a particular answer to the following question: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

Framing entails setting the terms of the debate by using the message or response that best elicits a more favorable response from the audience.  Think  of it as manipulation-lite, a way to lead the audience to your already determined conclusion.

It doesn’t always work, and can be tricky to claim to master.  But it is an essential skill–and something that William Saletan advises as a key for Obama to win.

As Republicans press that question, Democrats are fumbling for answers. The Democrats want to say yes, but they don’t want to offend voters who are unhappy or angry about the economy. The trick is to frame the question and answer it in a way that fits public opinion. Here’s a guide to what the polls say.

via Are you better off than you were four years ago? How Democrats will frame the question. – Slate Magazine.

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Framing and Mormon Progressives

A partisan discussion of how Latter-day Saint progressives might frame their issues to more effectively reach across to the Mormon conservative “tribe”:

So how might progressives create a space within Mormon culture for their tribe? The answer is to do exactly what conservative Mormons have done: employ frames both within political discourse and within Church discourse that remap the brain. Mormon theology fully supports an empathy-based frame, perhaps more so than any other Christian denomination. Mormons believe in a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father, who are literal parents of each of us. We believe in serving each other and the community. We believe in building communities where people live with one heart, one mind, dwell in righteousness, and eliminate poverty among us—and not just by building gated communities in which the poor are unwelcome. We believe in an earth that is created spiritually, and we can understand environmental responsibility as an act of stewardship. And in a moving example of a completely nurturant parent, Mormon scripture tells us that God himself looks down from heaven and weeps for his suffering children. In short, Mormon theology supports a metaphorical frame of empathy.

via The LDS Left: The Morality of Politics: The Challenges of Mormon Tribalism – by Boyd Petersen.

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