The importance of proper “framing” Part 1- What is framing?
“There are no facts, only interpretations.” Friedrich Nietzsche
“Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” Irving Berlin
This is the first in a series of the importance of framing issues properly.
To begin, what does the term “framing an issue” even mean? Wikipedia defines it (the social definition) like this: “ framing comprises a set of concepts and theoretical perspectives on how individuals, groups, and societies, organize, perceive, and communicate about reality. Framing can manifest in thought or interpersonal communication. Frames in thought consist of the mental representations, interpretations, and simplifications of reality. Frames in communication consist of the communication of frames between different actors. In social theory, framing is a schema of interpretation, a collection of anecdotes and stereotypes, that individuals rely on to understand and respond to events. In other words, people build a series of mental "filters" through biological and cultural influences. They then use these filters to make sense of the world. The choices they then make are influenced by their creation of a frame.”
Whew! That is a lot. Here is a much simpler definition. Framing is the process of using your internal preferences and biases to filter objective reality, and then presenting what you now believe to be objective reality to others.
Let me illustrate using a political hot topic in the news.
The United States President Trump made a phone call to the President of Ukraine. In that call he asked if the Ukrainian President could investigate allegations about the former Vice President. While it was never stated on the call, there was also an implication that financial aid may be withheld if the United States didn’t get what it wanted.
The transcript was made available and people who were listening were interviewed.
Given that all the objective facts are on the table, why does virtually half the population of the United States believe an impeachable offense occurred, and the other half thinks it was exactly what the President should have done?
If you don’t like President Trump, this is how you likely framed the call: The President abused his office by asking a foreign leader to dig up dirt on a political opponent that was actively running against him. To make it even worse, he bribed the foreign leader by attempting use financial aid as leverage to get the investigation started. All of this was done to benefit him personally.
If you support President Trump, this is how you likely framed the call: There have been allegations of Russian and Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, and there are also allegations that Hunter Biden leveraged his father’s position as Vice President to get lucrative financial deals for himself. If this is true, then there is the possibility that the former Vice President may be compromised. Since all the polls indicate he will be the Democrat nominee, it is one of the Presidents greatest responsibilities to make sure he was not compromised. Furthermore, virtually every conversation with a world leader is an attempt to get something that benefits the United States, otherwise why have the conversation? We often withhold financial or military aid until we get what we want, so this was no different.
Which frame sounds true to you? That will likely be determined by your stance toward the President!
Properly framing issues is incredibly important! The frame will lead you to a certain position and ultimately to a certain outcome. There are objective facts, and if you get the frame wrong you are fighting those facts.
Rock climbers say, “the rock doesn’t forgive”. If you make a mistake you will get hurt.
I'll be exploring the topic of framing over the next several articles.
Your personal frame aside, one of the two descriptions above is more compelling than the other. It’s not the one with the best facts, but the one that is shorter! People don’t like complexity, and all things being equal, the simplest “frame” wins! Be conscious of that as you are preparing your next presentation. If the issues are really complicated, do a concise executive summary with your frame. Facts seldom sway opinion, but short and concise ideas do.