What is framing? A person’s mindset is their frame of reference and how they make sense of situations in relationship to their relative importance or value for various options. In a typical conversation, decisions and opinions always emerge from a certain way each participant is looking at the problem. When you change the problem's definition (the frame in which the other person places the topic), you open up the possibility of escaping from the standard back-and-forth. The other person no longer needs to defend his or her viewpoint, because you've changed the "frame." For instance, in trying to relay your estuarine science research, you encounter a coastal homeowner who asks: “Why are you looking at climate change in marshes? You should be doing something helpful like reducing all the flooding that keeps happening on my street.” Our instinct as scientists is to educate and link the fact that climate change on marshes and the relative health of these systems is what leads to flooding. When we listen and adapt our message by reflecting some words (flooding) and ignoring others (the now politically charged ‘climate change’) we can invite a better understanding, increased participation and even collaboration. In an attempt to reframe the message, we might say instead: “I agree with you, flooding is a serious problem. Luckily there is an all-natural way to help the problem using and protecting plants living on salt marshes that we are trying to understand with our work.” While an oversimplified example we look forward to hearing from each of you on the arguments, historical context and misconceptions typically surrounding your work and how you (re)frame your message to increase stakeholder involvement.
Key Reframing Skills
1) Create a Code Book
• What are the arguments for this issue?
• What is the intent of the action?
• What is the historical context of this issue?
• What are the root frames of reference and priorities to this issue as it
• What misconceptions does the receiver potentially have about the topic
• Where can you agree?
• How can you reframe the problem?
• Where can you express the truths you see in their argument?
• What is a new solution?
• If you have successfully reframed, what is new evidence to support the
3) Read the Audience
• How can you help save face?
• Is the receiver defensive or open to opportunity?