“Pope Francis, is it okay if I smoke while I pray?”
“No my Son. That is a bit sacrilegious. Focus your attention on your prayer.”
“Pope Francis, is it okay if I pray while I smoke?”
“Yes my son. Prayer at any time is a blessing.”
Do these two scenarios have the ring of truth? Can you imagine two radically different responses from the Pope or a pastor or a Rabbi to these questions as posed above?
This example effectively illuminates the power of framing. The manner in which you frame ideas, potential outcomes, holiday plans, career aspirations, restaurant suggestions, and a myriad of other circumstances is to a large degree received based on how you frame your communication.
What is the most effective vehicle for a particular piece of communication? This should always be considered and will change with the circumstance. Phone call, text, email, in-person; do not let happenstance dictate the means of communication. Be in control. Time management is the act of controlling events, but time management has a little brother and that little brother is named Framing. Framing helps you control events. It helps you control outcomes. It helps you dictate outcomes.
Tone is always important and no less so when it comes to framing. Somber or light-hearted, dictatorial or democratic, righteous or unprincipled; all have their place yet none should be deployed without forethought.
Let me give you another example. Consider a group of doctors for whom a particular procedure is described. Group A is told the procedure has a 93% success rate. Group B is informed that in 7% of cases the procedure is a failure.
Which group of doctors is more likely to perform the procedure? If you guessed Group A, then you are right, and indeed I suppose you didn’t even feel you were guessing. You did not sense the correct answer, you knew it. You also knew the two groups were given the same information. And you also knew that these doctors were adept enough in basic percentages to wholly understand the information as presented. I recall reading about this study many years ago. I am not prepared to provide the statistics, but I do recall that the variance in the use of the procedure was significant. Group A performed the procedure very regularly and Group B almost not at all. The delta was enormous.
My clients, and those of you who read my blog regularly, are well acquainted with my concept of PPFE; positive, productive, fresh and enthusiastic. All four elements are showcased in the skill set of those who effectively frame their various ideas, suggestions, results, job performance, and the like.
The world is full of folks who self-identify as positive. Some really are. And some not-so-much. The manner in which people frame their terminology is my barometer. I will give an example.
I was recently acting as a volunteer driver with the Gabriel Project. I was driving an immigrant from Sierra Leone to her doctor’s appointments and helped her move from her living situation with an abusive boyfriend. She, Florence, has a 17-month old son. Florence loved the concept of PPFE and let me know that she was quite proud of her ability to always stay positive.
Tangent alert- I will here note that Florence was and is BRAVE. I have not walked a mile in her shoes. She was so brave in what she was doing and I admire her tremendously. I mean her no disrespect in alluding to the gap between her self-perception and what I saw as reality.
Back to the example. Florence had fallen into a habit of talking about her son in ways that portrayed him as a difficult handful with unpleasant-ish undertones. He loves to play outside and she tires of this. He has loads of energy, which makes it hard for Florence to keep up. Florence would speak of this little bundle of 17-month-old dynamism in negative ways. Yet Florence self-identifies as positive. I gently nudged her to train her brain. To always speak of Aaiz (her little ball-of-fire son) in the positive. Did she want a lethargic little guy? Is it bad that Aaiz wants to play endlessly? Watch what you wish for. The parent who bemoans the natural progression of their children has never stopped to effectively consider the alternatives. When that 19-year-old packs off to college and leaves a hole in your home and your heart, just think what it would mean if little darling had not been accepted into college, or if little darling had been arrested for drug possession, or if little darling had leukemia and could not start the freshman year.
Being positive in how you frame your terminology and your communication is key.
Being productive in even more important, and that is saying something. What is the goal? What is the mission? Are you communicating in such a way as to advance the mission? And not only the short-term mission, but encompassing future goals, needs and circumstances. Will you be going back to this well often? Does your packaging consider the presumed goals of those with whom you are communicating? Most folks can pick up the scent of selfishness quickly. Rare is the olfactory which finds selfishness appealing.
Formatting is important. Is a list of details just that, a list? Or does order matter? Does context get provided? Is the loyal opposition point-of-view robustly delivered and discretely discredited? Does the manner in which you frame information suggest a champion-the-cause mentality? Always champion the cause. Always focus on the team goal. The shared purpose. Those who do so are very appealing. Everyone appreciates a good teammate. And everyone feels good in advancing toward a shared goal.
Productivity is the keystone, the linchpin, the guiding principle behind how you frame anything! When I speak to my wife, I do so with the sure knowledge that I am counting on her wiping the drool from my chin when I am 85 and addled. This is the gal I will grow old with. This is my girlfriend. When I speak to her I do so tenderly. (another tangent alert- I married up big-time. Nicest, sweetest girl; a girl who loves back intensely) Permanence personified.
Being fresh, being in-the-moment, adapting to circumstances is a characteristic I find a bit harder to describe. You may be familiar with how a particular Supreme Court judge opined on the definition of pornography when he said he could not define it, but he knew it when he saw it. That is correlative to how I view fresh. I have trouble defining it but I, and most of you, know it when it is present.
Enthusiasm can be cloaked in a serious demeanor or it can wear the jester’s cap. Enthusiasm has many storefronts but the right dose should always be a component of your presentation. By presentation, I am not referring to a specific performance. I am referring to the manner and style you exhibit as you effect change. As you make a suggestion. As you share information.
“Is it okay if I smoke while I pray?” is unlikely to elicit the same response as “Is it okay if I pray while I smoke?”. Two ways to ask the same question, yet so different in the presentation. I made the point in an article a couple years ago that we all respond emotionally. This provides a good example of how the wording of a question can trigger an emotional response. Even the most reasoned among us are controlled more by our emotion than our reason. Frame your presentations, your suggestions, your results, your agendas, and you will find yourself controlling outcomes more effectively.