In recent years I’ve become fascinated with how differently people interpret events.

Years ago I attended a course where I was introduced to the idea that we all look at the world through frames; and each person’s frame is different.

The really valuable part of this concept was the three main kinds of framing:

  1. Ideas
  2. Ambition
  3. People

1. Ideas.

  • “Never give up your dreams”.
  • “The job must get done”.
  • “Honesty is the best policy”.
  • “Design living”.
  • “Don’t sell out your dreams”.
  • They see the world in terms of ideas and ideals.
  • They are artists, builders and craftsmen.
  • They chase the new, beautiful and interesting.
  • In a meeting they will debate ‘the idea’.
  • They just want to get the job done regardless of rules or feelings.
  • The idea is king.

2. Ambition.

  • “Knowledge is power”.
  • “Winners are grinners”.
  • “Everyone wants to get to the top”.
  • Everything is like a game to them.
  • They play with people and ideas like chess pieces.
  • They are interested in rules and political agendas.
  • Information is for gaining advantage.
  • People are for controlling and manipulating.
  • Everything is framed in terms of power.

3. People.

  • “There’s no I in team”.
  • “Work life balance”.
  • “You can’t take it with you”.
  • “We need to work together as a team”.
  • They see the world in terms of the people in it and how everyone gets along.
  • They worry about what people think of them – whether they like them or not.
  • They seek consensus rather than control.
  • They will compromise ideas in order to make everyone happy.
  • Happiness comes from harmony.

Obviously it is a spectrum thing, where we all have a little bit of each in us, but there is always a predominant frame.

For me this concept is most useful when I have to work with someone with a different frame to me.

  • Firstly, just the idea that there are different ways to look at the world, is a useful idea to keep in mind.
  • Secondly, by trying to work out the other person’s frame, instead of despising them, I approach them as a puzzle to be solved. I listen out for the phrases which expose their type of frame.

The other concept from this course was the idea that when people are uncomfortable or threatened that they revert more to their subconscious self – the one that looks through the frame (and acts like a child). The more you can reassure people, the more they will use their “human brain” (their frontal lobe where all the smarts and reason is). So if you can reassure them that their ideas will be respected, that they won’t be undermined and that everyone needs to get along, then everyone is happy!

I now find it fascinating when I hear people express a view strongly, which is clearly from one of these frames, and they have no idea that other people can see the world differently.


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