Power talk

The way reality is framed for us, completely determines how we perceive it.

How do we see refugees: are they fortune-hunters or simply people running for their lives? Are they the wild masses? Or people like us? Framing is war: those who plant the most powerful paradigm in our minds, win the war of how the world is seen. Donald Trump has copied Mussolini’s ‘humble people’ strategy: time and time again he repeats that America is losing and other countries are winning. If you repeat that often enough, everyone will believe it is time for a leader who´s going to make America great again. That is if in addition, you frame yourself as the successful businessman who is going to use his proven business experience to clean up the mess – while you frame your opponents as good-for-nothings.

Divorced couples often say afterwards that everything they did for the other only confirmed their lack of love. So they went further and further to try find evidence of the opposite. Even relationships are framing wars: epic power struggles over the definition of the relationship.

Framing authority George Lakoff says there are two ways to fall victim to framing: you’re sucked into it or you deny it. Either way you step into the frame and you’re lost. The only way to opt out is: don’t accept the paradigm, expose the motives of the one who is framing and present a counter frame.

The Dutch newspaper columnist Jaap Kuitenbrouwer once gave a most wonderful example: he came up with the term ‘casino pension’, for trade unions to make clear that our pension funds gamble with our money. The pension funds were completely lost. Fighting the term would only make it worse; the words casino pension were so powerful that nothing else stuck to people’s minds. Only after a year – with the help of Kuitenbrouwer – did they actually get the framing under control. By saying: of course there’s gambling and reinvestment. If not, your pension would be much lower. Fullstop.

The power struggle played with words goes unnoticed 99% of the time. Rarely we do notice, when a politician comes up with a funny word or a new phrase. And still, manipulation – both big and small – is everywhere. Understand that and the power is yours.


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