Frame Control – how the art of framing can make your decisions for you

Framing is a key influence skill which you really mustn’t underestimate.

Framing selects a viewpoint and cherry-picks the facts you present in support of that viewpoint. In short, it creates bias using only truth.

How does that work?

Here’s an example of how the art of framing can be used effectively – to make your decisions for you.

Suppose you tell someone that tapwater is basically really dilute bleach. It is actually true, so – after they’ve checked – they’ll probably freak out about it. They may even start an expensive bottled water habit so they can have ‘pure’ drinking water.

However, if you instead told them that their tapwater sits in a pipe for 3-4 days before it actually reaches their home, and no, no-one actually cleans those pipes… they’ll probably demand that you put something in it to stop it going bad. Something like, for example, chlorine.

This is how two groups of people can be looking at the same set of facts and still draw different (and often opposing) conclusions.

Those groups may face each other in the boardroom, a courtroom, or across a political divide.

But framing is at work in less obvious places too, in your daily life, mainly because framing works like a type of post-hypnotic suggestion.

Framing is everywhere, because we all tend to frame information according to our own viewpoints.

Be more aware of your frames and you’ll understand better how you’re being influenced – and how you’re unknowingly influencing others. That way everyone gets access to a better set of choices.

Agree, disagree? Join the discussion in the comments below.

NLP Word Power 1 – Words that magnify emotion

Influence. Most people want more of it. It can be frustrating if you are unable to affect important events and circumstances in the world around you.

Those same people don’t realise how much influence they already have, but are unknowingly frittering it away. It’s not really their fault – they don’t know any better yet.

This series will cover simple things you can do to use your language to reclaim your influence and expand on it easily.

Language that magnifies emotion

There is one simple word that you use every day which amplifies emotions: “why?”

More specifically, asking “why?” will tend to magnify another person’s current emotional state.

How you currently misuse it:

When dealing with problems and when you are trying to help people out, I’ll bet the first question that comes to mind is “why…?”

When I train people in NLP, I put a temporary ban on ‘asking why’ when dealing with problems, because it tends to magnify the problem.

In short, “why?” creates “because.”

Asking “why are you feeling sad?” results in the client generating more justification for the sadness. This brings them further into the emotion of ‘feeling sad’ and tends to focus their mind more on sadness. A downward spiral.

In this way, a carelessly worded, but well intentioned question can suck any remaining positivity out of their day.

How you can use it powerfully:

On the upside, asking “Why?” doesn’t just accelerate negative feelings. You can take a more positive emotion and build upon it instead.

If someone is mildly happy, asking “why are you so cheerful today?” tends to result in reasons for the cheerfulness, creating more cheerful feelings and focuses more of their attention on the good feelings. it creates an upward spiral.


To amplify their current state, good or bad, just ask “why…?”

Inside The Science of Ethical Influence

Since I teach hypnosis and NLP, plenty of people ask me about influence and persuasion. Many people wrongly assume that influence is about ‘clever’ language, often to the point of asking for ‘scripts’.

The truth is that the language is far less important than certain other motivating factors that surround the influence situation.

There are six universal factors in influence and persuasion that you should be aware of.


  • it is important to be aware of when someone might be trying to influence you against your interests
  • it is useful to know how to influence someone ethically

I know that, for some, the words ‘ethical’ and ‘influence’ don’t normally belong in the same sentence. The difficulty is that we can’t not influence each other, so – if you consider yourself to be ethical – you need to know how to do this for the best of all concerned. And ethical influence is the only good long term persuasion strategy.

The six influencing factors are described in the video below. This is the work of Dr. Robert Cialdini, the most cited expert on influence and persuasion.

Notice how so little of this is about clever or convoluted language. All influence depends on simple, normal everyday actions – done with awareness for mutual benefit.

How to Use the Placebo Effect

Credible people can do incredible things.

Credibility is the major factor because it’s necessary to look/sound/behave in a plausible and expected way when you wish to leverage the placebo effect.

What is a placebo exactly?

“any therapy prescribed … for its therapeutic effect on a symptom or disease, but which is actually ineffective or not specifically effective for the symptom or disorder being treated” (Shapiro, 1997)

A more accessible description is given on this video:

In other words, a placebo is not just a pill – it’s a behaviour which should have no positive effect – and yet it does (under certain conditions for certain people). The study of placebos in healthcare is vital because it would be immensely useful to:

  1. tell which treatments are effective in and of themselves
  2. harness the therapeutic effects of the placebo

This second aim is very important because if we can find ways to use harmless substances and behaviours to create change. Given that placebos tend only to work sometimes for some people, what characterises those people and those instances?

The first significant factor is the method’s believability to the person being ‘treated’. If the placebo itself is credible (for example, an injection is more credible than a pill) then the person who receives it will expect a positive effect. Expectancy is a colossal psychological lever and it can be boosted by using (for example) ‘active’ placebos – those substances where an effect can be felt (that is actually irrelevant to the treatment) which is taken to mean that the substance is ‘working’.

Second is the method’s believability to the person administering the placebo. If the person who is administering the placebo believes in its effectiveness their language, behaviour and attitude will give the recipient confidence that it works and creates additional expectancy of success.

Third, the credibility/trustworthiness of the person administering the placebo is important. Can you believe them when they say that if you follow their instructions, the desired change will take place? Congruency, a history of trust, plausibility of rationale and authority cues can contribute to credibility. Also, honesty cues (such as acting against one’s apparent self-interest) can be useful here too.

Finally, the presence of psychological short-cuts, such as Cialdini factors (like Authority and Consensus) or specially tailored convincers is also going to boost the effect. For more about this aspect, see my 3-part video series on Convincers and Influence. Convincers also boost expectancy considerably.

When you add up all these factors, the placebo effect will work on more people more of the time.

That is how credible people can do incredible things.

Comments are welcome below…

Surrounding yourself with resources

Time for a simple question: what is your favourite colour?

I know that it’s a fairly trivial ‘small-talk’ question, yet our colour preferences can have some interesting implications.

Think about this:

  • Do you ever wear your favourite colour? If so, how do you feel different when you are wearing it, compared to some other colour?
  • Do you choose to put your favourite colour somewhere in your environment? Is it, for example, the colour of your car, your sofa, your carpet or your wallpaper?

My point is that you have a preference for a certain colour because it connects to good feelings. For many people, only a specific shade of that colour will do – and the closer you match that colour, the better it feels.

We don’t all have a conscious awareness of this effect, though it affects us subliminally. So if you don’t wear your favourite colour, what would it be like if you did? What if your car was that colour? Your environment might have a more positive background effect on your state of mind.

And fairly soon, you’ll be noticing that particular colour everywhere. This last part is a psychological effect called ‘priming‘ and its effects can be more general than just reinforcing your preferred positive associations.

Put simply, there are more general colour effects that influence specific types of awareness.

For example, red enhances the performance of tasks that demand attention, while blue enhances performance at creative tasks according to a recent study.

So if you want to create a more resourceful and pleasant environment for yourself, colour is a good place to start. And it’s only the beginning of the way in which environment can affect our moods and behaviour.

Your comments are welcome below.

Book Recommendation – “Flipnosis” by Kevin Dutton

Buy this book! Seriously.

You’ve probably noticed that I don’t make recommendations very often. This book is an exception because I think it has something for everyone.

It’s a book about influence and we all influence each other every day whether or not we want to – even when we’re trying not to.

Those of you who have trained with me know that the only other book I recommend on influence is by Robert Cialdini. That’s because Cialdini’s approach is straightforward, ethical and supported by good research.

Flipnosis is all about instant influence and how that works. Dutton is a psychologist, so the material in his book is well researched. It’s also very readable, facinating and entertaining too.

I recommend it highly.

For more info, go and have a look at the reviews:

Or if you’re in the USA, it has a different title. Go here to take a look:

NLP – Influencing Decision-Making

One of the most interesting things about the way our minds work is the way that we make decisions. We do this every day – we have to decide between one thing and another thing and there is some internal mechanism that allows us to do that.

Sometimes this mechanism works really well and we make a great decision.  And sometimes the result is not so good. You know the decisions I’m talking about. All the exercise equipment you bought and never used. The clothes you bought that you never wear. The things that seemed like a good idea at the time, which you regret later.

And there are other sorts of decisions – the ones we make most unconsciously. A sort of decision like: do I eat the chocolate cake or do I eat a salad? Do I go and do some exercise or do I sit in front of the television? The results to these sorts of decisions are not always entirely what we hoped.  And a big part of that is down to how we think about the decision.

How do we compare the options?

The moment of decision

In the moment of decision we have to choose between the options to select what is best for us. So most decisions involve some sort of comparison. Should I buy the brown shoes or the black ones? Which car is most comfortable / looks best / sounds best / is fastest / is most economical? We tend to compare some aspect of each experience and choose the option that comes out best for that aspect.

For example, if you look at the choice between a piece of chocolate cake or a salad and you make the choice based on a picture of the chocolate cake and how that feels and a picture of the salad and how that feels – if you do the decision in this way the chocolate cake will always win.

However if you compare these in a slightly different way, focusing on a different aspect of the experience, you get a different outcome. Suppose you were to fast-forward each of the images until you see where they lead and then compare those images. For example, the chocolate cake fast-forwards to a picture of standing in front of the mirror feeling bloated. The salad can fast-forward to an entirely different picture. Now when you compare those pictures, the salad wins.

And that’s just one way in which how we make decisions impacts the results we get.

Channelling our decision-making

We don’t always make decisions with pictures though. Sometimes we talk about the two options with ourselves – we talk about one option then we talk about the other. How you talk about those things – the words you use, the tonality you use and how you express the words makes a tremendous difference in what you will decide.

There are other ways that our decisions can be affected because decision-making is a process.

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) we call this process a ‘strategy’. There are many different ways that a strategy can be affected by other conditions which will ultimately affect the sort of decision we get and whether it’s a good decision or a bad decision.

But what makes a good decision good and the bad decision bad?

That’s something that is much more difficult to evaluate for most people. I would suggest that as a rough rule-of-thumb a good decision is one that gets you what you want in the bigger picture or in the longer term.

It’s important to look at utility from a broader perspective because how you frame the decision – whether you look at the chocolate cake or the consequences of the chocolate cake later on – affects how you move through the world. To make decisions you’ve got to know what you really want and that’s a whole other issue. I suggest that you evaluate your decisions from a broad enough perspective and find out if they really give you want you want in the long-run.

For NLPers

For those of you with NLP training, you’ve probably noticed that this article includes only two of the many ways to influence a person’s strategies. There are at least twelve easy ways to do this – and about twenty in total, without splitting hairs.

My challenge to you is to add your favourite way of influencing strategies in the comments section below. Care to play?