Sunday, July 01, 2007

Framing: Not Just for Pictures

I've been reading quite a bit about the "framing" wars amongst scientists trying to bolster public acceptance of evolution and atheists trying to eliminate stereotypes about them. There's a lot of confusion about what framing means. Since I've got that lovely B.A. in Communications sitting around gathering dust, I'll weigh in with my expert opinion. But to make things fun, I'll step away from the science/atheism/religion controversies and show you how framing can work for you.

Imagine a young gentleman trying to pay tribute to the young lady with whom he is in love or even merely in lust.

In situation A, he says, "Man, my bitch is FINE! She's got a smokin' ass and tits that'll put ya eyes out, Dawg!

In situation B, he says:
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!


In both A and B, our love-struck young man is expressing that the object of his affection is very attractive. However, although A may seem flattering to a particular sort of young lady, I think you can understand how B is framed much better and is more likely to be successful in most situations.

Now, let's take a more serious scenario. A young woman is applying for a job after being unemployed for a year.

In situation A, she says, "Man, I just didn't feel like working. Hell, the only reason I'm applying for this crap job is because my parents won't pay for my shit anymore."

In situation B, she says, "After finishing school, I thought it best to take some time off to explore my options and decide what I really wanted to do with my life. I think I learned a lot about myself and gained perspective on what a career means to me. Now, I'm ready to commit myself to a full-time job at your company."

B is obviously better framing. A may get you a good position at McDonald's, but B will help you take the next step up to a cush job at the Gap.

Framing is not about what you say, but how you say it. It's about ensuring that your message gets across in a way that helps you achieve your goals. Bad framing is kind of like the static that interferes with television reception. It doesn't change the quality of the program but it does make you more likely to change the channel away from something you might have enjoyed otherwise.

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