By Inbal AbarbanelDecember 15th, 2021

During a lifetime, we encounter endless clashes of interests, agendas, and statuses of power. In order to manage the flow, people tend to simplify these into coherent, understandable frames. These frames are built upon our perspectives, and serve as instruments we use to package our power of authority over the other person or party in a given situation or conflict.

In circumstances of negotiations, each party frames its own perception. A conflict arises as to who’s going to resolve with its upper hand. Both sides try to convince and manipulate the other party and their frames collide. Frames do not coexist or blend. Frames compete and one or the other gains control. Only one frame survives and the other is being absorbed. Eventually, the stronger one will govern the interaction and dominate the other one.

This process is actually called reframing, a semantic tactic we’re taking deliberately or unconsciously of gaining competence in every social encounter. Reframing is conducted by the patterns of the messages transferred, by linguistic cues, and by social signaling. Imagine you are taking a stance and in response the other disputant lowers her voice, saying to you “Look, you are right, but you don’t have the whole picture”. This person is signaling to you that they “control the frame”, they are more socially competent and therefore have the upper hand in this situation.

When negotiating, reframing stands as a tool for persuasion, using semantic and pragmatic means to turn things around. The agenda of the persuaded side isn’t explicitly called off, but it is absorbed within the other’s side frame. That is known as the tactic of “Big-Picture reframing”. One type of reframing happens when one side drops the current frame by setting a new frame of discussion and turning the former one irrelevant. Another type of reframing is Time-Framing. The dominant side calls off the whole discussion by posing a hard stop on it. “I see what you mean but I have to finish in like two minutes. What’s the next step?”

Many different methods of reframing can be found in the context of deal-making. One tactic is “Prize Reframing” – raising the perceived value of the offer by making it seem rare or in high demand, unlike any other commodity. In the circumstance of selling, the seller reframes the deal as an unordinary one-time offer and thereby displays a more valuable opportunity or product. With that, reframing the deal’s conditions as “one time” can help raise the attractiveness of the offering (just $3 a day, or $15 a week for Christmas) but at the same time may commoditize the product. High end products or services rarely have “special deals”.

Framing and reframing attempts are inherent to every non-commodity business deal you’ll ever be involved in. If you’re the buyer and your frame loses, you’re more likely to buy, or at the very least respect the seller, seeing him/her as a domain expert. If you’re the seller and you lost the frame while speaking about your own domain, you’re in great risk of losing the deal. Win the frame war, close the deal.