Friday, May 01, 2015

The Power of Frames

George Bernard Shaw once remarked that “It’s best to come at a man through his religion rather than your own.”

Religion is the right world to use in the persuasion game because it encompasses the essence of frames.

What’s a frame?

A frame can be a story, a metaphor, or a value system.

It is the structure through which you see and understand the world.

Frames are more important than facts.

Let me say that again: Frames are more important than facts.

What that means is that if facts are presented to most people, and those facts are counter to the frame, they will throw out the facts and keep the frame.

Think religion.

Religion says we must believe on faith alone, and in the absence or rejection of fact and observation.

Think the American Kennel Club. The frame here is that their dog shows produce “better” dogs and never mind all evidence to the contrary.

Frames govern a vast amount of what you think.

They underpin your politics, your charity, your acquisitions, your diet and exercise decisions, and your very sense of self.

And they also underpin what you think about dogs.

And while your frames can change over time, they tend to be quite robust, which is why George Bernard Shaw says it is always best to come at a man through his religion, rather than your own.

What frames do dog owners typically bring to the table? Among the most common are these:

  • I am a good person. I am a wise, powerful, loving, and important person worthy of adoration.
  • I am smart and discerning. I am above average, if not very nearly genius.
  • I believe in justice. People who do good should get their just rewards, while those who do bad work should get their just consequences.
  • My dog is like a member of my family. They are my “fur baby.”

How do you start a conversation with someone who personifies these frames? How do you teach them?

The good news is that we know.

What we have in the world of dogs is a recapitulation of what we have had in the world of children.

How do we teach children?

  • Patience.
  • Repetition.
  • Consistency.
  • Consequences.

Or at least in theory.

You see, a lot of folks grow up in really dysfunctional homes, and these people acquire dogs too.

These folks end up not trusting people to be patient, consistent, or fair.

They may have had parents who misinterpreted the Biblical admonition to not “spare the rod and spoil the child.”

They may have grown up in an alcoholic home or one where a parent had mental issues of some kind.

And, to be honest, even in “normal” homes, busy parents often vacillate between indifference and controlling, permissive and authoritarian, if for no other reason than both parents are often on a different page when it comes to how to rear the kids.

Any wonder why these folks are not big on e-collars, slip collars, prong collars, or any collars at all?

Any wonder they are much more comfortable with food and praise alone?

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