Big Bad Baby Killers
By Kenrick Cleveland
Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Baby Killers?
An Exercise In Framing
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” – Anais Nin
Politicians and pundits call it ‘spin’: The ability to distort any event or situation in a way that supports your position.
Take the Nuclear Reduction Treaty. That sounds like a good idea, right? Reduce the amount of nukes, how could you argue with that? This treaty was proposed to cut U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. Well, at least that’s what the surface claim is, that’s what the public is being sold, but scratch the surface and you’ll see the Orwellian overtones of the name because this treaty would actually prolong the nuclear standoff and encourage a stockpiling of weapons.
But doesn’t the way the treaty was framed give a warm, fuzzy and safe feeling?
This happens all the time in naming political treaties and acts – The Clean Air Act (loopholes for corporate polluters), The Transportation Safety Act (could be considered the Transportation Control Act because they’re putting us under their control and not letting us do whatever the heck we want), and my favorite name, The Patriot Act (limiting our freedom by suggesting that to not agree to having our liberties diminished would be unpatriotic).
Another great example of framing is the abortion debate. In one corner we’ve got the ‘pro-lifers’ who are ‘anti-choice’ and base their activities on villianizing the ‘baby killers’ even going so far as to bomb clinics in an attempt to save unborn babies (ironically, potentially killing fully formed adult humans and unborn fetuses in the process). In the other corner we have the ‘pro-choice’ crowd who are said to be ‘anti-life’ due to their wish to allow women to abort ‘unborn babies’.
The anti-abortion/pro-life advocates have framed the debate most intensely by showing gruesome images and using the title ‘baby killer’ to make their point. Who would possibly want to align oneself with killing babies?
Framing is one of the most important tools we have in our arsenal of persuasion skills.
How can we start to use this kind of framing in our lives?
What if, for example, you had to meet with a particularly difficult client or prospect and there was a certain amount of resistance and uneasiness about having to do this? Or maybe you’re ultra shy or socially uncomfortable about meeting with a particularly affluent or wealthy prospect.
Well, instead of looking at this as a chore or a necessary evil to doing business, how about putting a new frame on it? Say to yourself, ‘Wow, what an awesome opportunity to use my persuasion skills. As I approach this next person to talk to I’m going to frame our interaction in terms of using the skills instead of in terms of do they like me and will I make it.’
An example from my life of how framing can be profound has to do quite literally with a frame.
My wife and I were looking at buying a Thomas Kincaid painting. They call him the painter of light. You can’t buy his originals, they go to a museum, but he takes lithographs of them and then touches them up and the funny things is, if you put a light on them, like a spotlight, you can turn the light up or down and it looks like the painting is painted with day light or nighttime light. It’s just unbelievable what he’s able to do with his highlighting.
We ultimately didn’t end up buying it, but the lady showed us the painting without a frame. And then she said, ‘Now, for example, we could put it in a frame like this’, and she showed me the same painting a little smaller but in this giant, ornate frame. ‘Or, we could put it in this really simple frame over here that would be a lot less expensive, it would look like this.’
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this almost destroyed the beauty of the painting to me to see it in this ugly little frame that was meaningless. I almost had to walk right out of the store so I could sit and contemplate what I had just experienced because it was such an intense thing to realize that people buy into the frames that we set all the time. And when we set a frame for somebody and people buy into that frame, a profound thing takes place.
This week: think about the frames you’ve established for yourself and how they may be ready to be updated.
Until next time,
Kenrick E. Cleveland