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  • Writer's pictureRonald van Aggelen

How to use framing to influence others

Framing is the conscious use of words that evoke associations. These can be positive or negative associations. Manipulation is a fantastic example of framing that evokes negative associations. When I introduce myself as a manipulator I always chuckle. What happens is that my conversation partners are alerted immediately, because the word manipulation activates all internal alarm bells at once. Everything in our brain that is linked to the emotions and cognitions surrounding 'manipulation' is activated. Manipulation is an activity that scares people. Afraid that something will happen, or that they will do something they don't really want to do.

When I introduce myself as a manipulator I always chuckle


If you were to 'reframe' the word manipulation you could use the word influence, for example. A term that arouses less resistance. The word influence actually makes you curious. In the book Right Kind of Wrong, Amy Edmondson writes that an open culture of making mistakes, in which making mistakes is encouraged, is helped by reframing the concept of mistakes. For example, you can call it 'opportunities to improve' or 'learning moments'.

Framing as an influencing technique

Framing becomes an influencing technique when you are alert to your use of words and images. And you therefore consciously choose words and images that can work to your advantage. It asks you to think about what you want to achieve and how words and images can contribute to that. Research has shown that words even influence our perception. The word crash versus the word collision gives a completely different assessment of observations. So does the phrase 'it is not a problem but a challenge'. A frame can determine our decision-making. A good example is the way words are used on products in the supermarket. For example, a dairy packaging that emphasizes low in fat rather than the actual amount of fat.

Framing in strategy

We often use framing in strategy formation and communication about it: Emphasize what will remain the same instead of what will change. This kind of framing helps people embrace change sooner. The classic research by Kahneman and Tverski clearly showed that a positive frame influences the actual use of medicines. The discussions about the vaccination against Covid also showed this: the negative frame of pathogenic versus the positive frame of prevention.

For managers, the skill of framing is relatively new. It is hardly used, while in marketing and politics it is standard.

Consciously using unconscious processes in our brains is a common thread in our work at Braintality. If you want to learn more about this, keep following us and read our previous blogs about influence.

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