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What's the Frame?

Note: I realize I'm digging in to a little more psychology than usual, but as we're finishing the mixing process for The Golden Vine it's becoming more and more clear that understanding group dynamics is of the utmost importance in creative endeavors. That being said, let's get on with it.

So I foreshadowed a little bit. 

In last week's post on addressing negotiation issues from a logical versus emotional standpoint, I exposed you to this week's concept: Framing. A frame is the name for the biases and preconceptions that people view a certain issue through, thus affecting their overall judgement of the issue. Framing is the process of choosing how one presents an issue by imposing a certain frame upon the issue. For example, last week I described logical versus emotional resistance in dealing with people. The frame that was implied in my discussion was that this is the way to interpret the examples I presented, leading you to further apply this (logic versus emotions) mindset to other real-world problems. Although it was a very obvious example, the way I presented my Phở joke in the last post is another good example of framing.

While I really do believe that the frame I presented last week is useful, always be aware of how issues are being framed and how that is an attempt to influence your thinking. There are millions of ways to approach every problem, framing is a tool that can just as easily lead you to a good conclusion as lead to astray. Logic versus emotion is a useful frame, but if we take it as the only frame then we miss the true robustness of a question. What if the someone acts in a grey area between reason and emotion?

Let's look at some more examples of framing and see how that affects us.

Example A: You're playing around on an excellent bass at a music store and you start chatting with a guy next to you who mentions he plays 6 instruments. You only play the good one (bass guitar). He asks why you don't play more instruments. 

Notice the frame taken by the multi-instrumentalist; "Playing multiple instruments is good." Is it? Does it matter that you can play a djembe? It does if you recorded every track on your album. It doesn't if you're a live band and can physically only play one instrument at a time. What about the amount of practice time you have available per instrument; is it possible to be amazing at multiple instruments? Does being good at one instrument make you better at another?

The questions keep piling up when you question the frame the six-instruments guy uses. The big question: How does this frame affect your answer? Would you be apologetic for playing only one? Would you be proud? Would you make excuses?

These are the considerations you should take when evaluating a frame.

Example B: You finish your conversation with the six-instruments guy and are approached by a salesperson. She begins to talk to you about what you're looking for in a bass guitar and makes the statement, "So how's the sustain on your current guitar?" 

Frame: "Sustain in what you should be concerned about in your next guitar." Every good salesperson knows how to frame a question perfect to get their customer to start thinking their way. Is sustain even relevant for your music? Punk rock doesn't need sustain, everything is eighth notes! How much more do guitars with "good sustain" cost?

How does the way this question is framed affect your answer? It's not hard to envision how the salesperson wants the conversation to go from here.


That's a primer on framing. We'll be coming back to this.


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