Here in Japan, Tokyo suffered an embarrassing defeat recently in not getting the 2016 Olympics, which by now you undoubtedly know went to Rio. While I understand how having the Olympics can be a huge financial and political windfall to any city, I never really understood the fervor with which cities and politicians campaigned for the win.
As a kid growing up in LA, I remember the Olympics in the 80’s, but without any of the massive campaigning that went on recently. One thing that struck me was how Ishihara, the Mayor (or sometimes called the governor) of Tokyo responded. He used the classic political “reframe.” When used correctly, this can be a powerful tool of persuasion that can gain compliance and behaviors in you favor. When used with less that adroitness, it can come across as ineffectual.
Ishihara said the reason the Olympic Committee didn’t choose Tokyo was because the Japanese delegates (or representatives, or whatever they are called) are “not good at behind the scenes activities,” to paraphrase, meaning that in order to get the Olympics in your city, one has to be skilled in backroom, under the table dealings.
In saying that, Ishihara was saying that Rio, who got the Olympics, was in some way deceitful and manipulative, while the poor Japanese, who are incapable of such dealings, missed out. In other words, he was claiming that because the Japanese delegates were too honest and upfront. That is why they didn’t get chosen for the Olympics.
Now, here in Japan, the response from the foreigner community was one of “sour grapes.” I haven’t spoken to enough locals lately to get their read on his response.
But the point of this article today is to not to point out this particular reframe, but to illustrate how powerful it can be when used correctly. In my opinion, Ishihara’s attempted reframe was less than effective.
Ideally, reframes are most effective before a decision is made by your target, not as an excuse after. Politicians that use them effectively before an election, to somehow present their weaknesses as strengths, usually have a habit of getting elected.
My personal favorite reframe was by Ronald Reagan in the debate with Mondale. Going into the debate, Reagan was fairly old, and Mondale was much younger. The underlying, unspoken concern was that Reagan was too old to be an effective president. Reagan, being the great communicator, knew this and used it to his advantage.
What he did was illustrate two things. One is that by effectively reframing your weaknesses into strengths, you take the air out of your opponent’s objections. If you are a salesperson, and you have a list of your products likely drawbacks, and can figure out a way to make them into strengths, you can usually sell a lot of products.
The second thing that Reagan did was not only reframe, but also pre-frame. He voiced the objection he knew his opponent had, and not only reframe it, but he did it before his opponent even brought it up. When you can reach into our opponents mind, and reframe his objection before he even voices it, you can be pretty much unstoppable.
You can watch it here:
Another great example comes from the movies. There is a scene in 8 mile, with Eminem, when he has to do a “rap battle” with somebody that is better known, bigger, stronger, better respected, and even who stole his girlfriend. Eminem’s character, “Rabbit,” has to go first in the rap battle, and effectively takes all the “dirt” his opponent is likely to bring up during his “turn” in the rap battle, and effectively deflates them, one by one, leaving his opponent with nothing to say, speechless. Granted, this is a movie that is written, shot and re shot with many takes, but it illustrates the powers you can achieve when you not only know what objections your opponent has, but dismantle them before they object them.
Check it out here (right around :48 the reframing starts, language is NSFW)
Of course, all this was first illustrated by conversational hypnotist Milton Erickson. When you can take your targets objections, and reframe them into positive aspects, before you target even voices them, you will gain powerful authority in their world, and they will be much more likely to take your suggestions.