The Frame: It’s Not What You Mean, It’s What They Hear
When we talk about entering the conversation in our prospect’s mind, we’re really talking about navigating an existing frame.
Have you ever watched The West Wing?
It’s regarded as one of the greatest television shows of all time, and it’s particularly popular among political junkies. While highly idealistic, the Aaron Sorkin creation likely provides a better understanding of politics and government than most of us were exposed to in school.
The West Wing follows eight years of the Bartlett administration, a Democratic president played by Martin Sheen. A significant aspect of the show involves the White House press secretary and the presidential speech writers who carefully craft every word.
In other words, The West Wing is primarily about persuasive communication. And those plot elements, combined with the way Aaron Sorkin wrote the first four seasons, makes it a masterclass for people like us.
Some of the more instructive moments arrive when someone says the “wrong” thing, and the wordsmiths have to spring into crisis management mode. What does that actually mean?
It means someone stepped outside the frame of the Bartlett administration’s worldview. This required a concerted effort to correct or minimize the misstep and get “back on message.”
Frames: How We Perceive the World
To attract a profitable audience, you need new ideas for solving problems. A fresh opportunity to finally succeed when other approaches have failed, or in Star Wars speak — a new hope.
Novel ideas are new mental frames of reference. In dictionary terms, that means a set of ideas or facts that a person accepts and that influences their behavior, opinions, or decisions.
When we talk about entering the conversation in our prospect’s mind, we’re really talking about navigating an existing frame. In the broadest sense, a worldview is the frame of reference for your reality.
Another way of thinking about a worldview is a subjective interpretation of reality — as if there’s an inherently objective world out there. But reality is always subjective because it only exists in relation to an observer (we individual humans), and it’s hardwired into our neural circuitry.
Here’s how cognitive linguist George Lakoff puts it:1
Our understanding of the world is part of the world — a physical part of the world. Our conceptual framings exist in physical neural circuitry in our brains, largely below the level of conscious awareness, and they define and limit how we understand the world, and so they affect our actions in the world.
This is known as reflexivity. People act according to their worldview, and that worldview is reinforced and further shaped by their actions. This is a profoundly recursive and entrenched aspect of who we are, which is why a Leading Expert doesn’t seek to change minds with marketing.