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Set The Frame… And Sometimes Reset It


by Bob Burg and John David Mann, authors of “The Go-Giver Influencer: A Little Story About a Most Persuasive Idea

Jackson Hill and his mentor, Judge Henshaw, are back at Rachel’s Famous Coffee for another lesson. One that Jackson badly needs as he’s about to continue his negotiations with the formidable Gillian Waters later that day. And his first meeting with the buyer at Smith & Banks had not gone well.

“Set the frame,” the Judge said. “The frame is more important than the content, because the frame is the context. Whoever sets the frame of the conversation also sets the tone and the direction in which it will go.

“Before Abraham Lincoln became president he was a very successful trial lawyer with a very unusual style. He would typically begin his opening arguments by summing up the other side’s case, pointing out the positive aspects of their position and how worthy they were of sober consideration. In fact, it was said that if you’d walked into the courtroom at the moment he was giving his opening remarks, you’d have assumed he was representing the opposing side.

“Sounds strange, I know. But by doing this, Mr. Lincoln was establishing his credibility with the judge and jury, and demonstrating that both sides had a legitimate view and that he was seeking only the truth.

“When it came time to present his side of the dispute, he would really pour it on, offering up point after point, fact after fact, to make his client’s case. By this point his credibility level was quite high. After all, if he was so forthright about the strengths of the other side’s position, then he must be honest and speaking straight from his heart, right?

“And here’s the key: when he presented that other side, he was being sincere. Yes, it was clever, and yes, it was calculated. But it wasn’t phony.

“Which is one of the central tenets of effective frame setting. You have to mean it.

“Do you remember how this conversation began? I mean right now, this morning, when you first sat down?”

Jackson blushed. “Yeah. Sorry about that. I was upset. Nervous about this meeting coming up today. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“So who set the frame?”

He didn’t say anything for a moment. Then: “I’m not sure. You?


“But… I don’t see how you set any frame at all. You didn’t say or do anything! I was the one who snapped at you and sulked over my oatmeal. Didn’t that set a frame?”

“Well,” she said, “it could have.” She took one last swallow of coffee and raised one finger to signal she was ready for their check. “Sometimes, though, not reacting is the most powerful statement you can make. When you go to your default setting of calm, that is itself a frame reset. Or at the very least, it sets the stage for one. So yes, your mood did set a certain frame — but I reset it.

“There’s always a frame being set. Always. The only question is, Who will set it?”


*Excerpted from”The Go-Giver Influencer: A Little Story About a Most Persuasive Idea“, by Bob Burg and John David Mann, about which legendary business coach Marshall Goldsmith says, “This may be the most important Go-Giver book yet — and in today’s polarized world, it could not be more timely.” Download the first two chapters at bit.ly/GGInfluencer.