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Framing is an elegant communication tool. It's the skill of creating perspective so that a decision can be made. So here is how it works. If you're negotiating with a potential client, and you learn how dissatisfied they were about meeting project deadlines with a former consultant, you have an opportunity to frame your services in a new light. You can tell them how you've come in under budget or ahead of schedule, you can offer to put them in touch with clients for whom you've done similar work, and you can finish by offering a starting number for the project.
By doing this, you frame the request around time, budget, and reputation as benefits to your bargaining partner, while also anchoring the monetary value within it. Framing not only focuses attention, it also influences judgments, it organizes a person's thoughts around a specific category or outcome, and people tend to create responses to fit the frame. A question is innocuous as "How tall is he?" frames that response in terms of height.
Research shows that people give higher numbers when asked how tall or large someone is than they do when asked how short or small someone is. Many negotiations look and sound like contests between right and wrong. It's critical that you learn to frame and reframe the subject to have a conversation in a way that encourages people to move from competition to collaboration. I'll give you a few reliable ways to reframe negotiations that are heading south.
When you're in the middle of a conversation that's becoming adversarial, shift the focus from the people who are negotiating the fight to the problem, that is be hard on the problem and soft on the people. If you or your bargaining partner are stuck on being right, acknowledge that you're on opposite sides and use diagnostic questions to shift the focus and find out what they really want. If you're willing to make concessions but your bargaining partner is not, reframe the situation by changing the emphasis from the roadblock to exploring other possibilities.
When somebody is stuck in the past, encourage them to look forward to next steps. Remind them what is done is done, and the solution lies in what's ahead. Now it's your turn to take a look at the exercise files and try your hand at framing and reframing. After reading the statements within those files, come up with your own reframe version that turns the conversation around. Once you have worked through them, you'll have a good sense of how valuable this skill is in any context.
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