On The Frame Drift

(Epistemic Status: Endorsed – another thing I Noticed but do not yet have practice on. Also sorta Dangerous Technology socially, but the cost of failure is mostly the same as disagreeing with someone outright so probably not that dangerous)

Have you ever found yourself talking to someone and they just…say something or believe something that is wrong in some fundamental way? Perhaps it is a course of action that will likely destroy them – sometimes it’s just a belief that is clearly incorrect – other times it’s a preference that offends you. Regardless of the way they are Wrong, your first instinct might be to just tell them outright you think they’re wrong. This predictably hardens them on the Wrong belief and the things you are saying are suddenly weighted a lot less heavily by the person you’re talking to. Worse still, they probably are taking you less seriously on other matters, whether contentious or not. Overall, you’ve mostly cost yourself influence over something that probably doesn’t matter all that much. So most of the time, the right move is agreeing to disagree and maintaining harmony.

However…there are other moves available. If you’re fast enough or familiar enough with the belief in question, you can attempt a move I call frame drift. It’s fairly simple and to a degree obvious – rather than opposing the Wrong belief from the outset, you can opt to start within the frame the other person is providing. Actively listen to what they’re saying, agree with them. Highlight the really solid points of what they’re saying. If you can do this smoothly without the barest hesitation, it increases resonance. Don’t even let it into your voice what you’re about to do – people can hear a but a sentence away. As you continue discussing their idea, the initial resonance gives you room to ask questions. You can use this method to get them to defeat their own belief. If you ask the right questions and have them comfortable enough to give honest answers, you’re likely to get a drift in frame. The most important thing at this point is to not point out what you’ve done – in fact, if you really want to try to be clever, continue defending their initial position as they come up with their objections. You can completely reverse the effect you would have walked into if you had disagreed outright. Another way to approach frame drift is to just keep talking. Start with agreement, phase into drawbacks (but again, avoid things that sound like you’re saying “X is great, but Y” – aim more for “X is great and Y is a really good point. I think there are possible pitfalls around Z, so this might not be the best idea, but we might be able to work through that”), and leave the question open in a way that isn’t “So you should change your mind” but “So how do you think we should approach that so we can do the Wrong thing better?”

These approaches are of course easier said than done – even allowing yourself to S2 frame it as drifting someone’s frame is likely to screw up your paralinguistics and word choice. Being able to slip into the mindset of genuinely wanting the Wrong Thing to succeed and persist can be a hacky way to approach causing frame drift, though may lead to you hardening the belief or even shifting your own beliefs if you argue too well for the thing. Another option is framing it to yourself as wanting the best for the other person – the pitfall here is that you might come off as preachy/naggy and just open yourself to them hardening against you as a person. Really, though, the best way to execute this is likely to practice, knowing what you’re doing, and iterate forward on your ability to cause frame drift.

Overall, frame drift is a persuasive technique and a fairly obvious one, but generally errors made in executing it are in the feeling behind it. Conscious execution of persuasive techniques frequently just scan improperly and cause people to be more suspicious.   Still, this technique should be learnable with practice and a good enough understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Discussion questions: Do you think you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a frame drift? What did it feel like? Do you think this is an acceptable way to argue with people to bring them to your views? Why or why not?

2 thoughts on “On The Frame Drift

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s