Framing In Negotiations

“How you say something is more important than what you say.”

Ever heard that before? Think it’s true?

Well, it turns out that it actually is true.

Once you learn about framing, it will change the way you look at how things are said, and hopefully the way you say things to have people buy into your deals more often.

Think of it exactly as it sounds. You perceive the attractiveness of a picture differently depending on what frame you put it in. The more attractive the frame, the more we attractive we perceive the painting to be. And visa versa.

Framing a negotiation differently means that you’re focusing the attention of the other party on a feature that you want them to focus on, and creating less focus on other areas.

The question naturally becomes, “Why?”

Answer: Because it advances your interests.

By framing something differently, you’re essentially creating an opportunity for cognitive bias to occur. Research by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman showed that people react differently depending on how something is presented.

But before I tell you the results of the study, I think you need to experience it so you get a feel for how things are framed. So, I want you to answer the questions as they are presented, but do not to read ahead.

Instructions: Choose one of the following two treatments to treat 600 people affected by a deadly disease:

1. By applying Treatment A, you will save 200 lives.
2. By applying Treatment B, you have a 33% chance of saving all 600 people, 66% possibility of saving no one.

***Do not move on until you’ve chosen an option.***
Now we’ll repeat it with different questions.

Instructions: Choose one of the following two treatments to treat 600 people affected by a deadly disease:

3. By applying Treatment A, 400 people will die.
4. By applying Treatment B, there’s a 33% chance that no people will die, 66% probability that all 600 will die.
What did you choose for each?

Time to come clean. Option 1 and 3 are the same. So are option 2 and 4. But they are framed differently. So you would think then that if you chose option 1 in the first question set, you should naturally choose option 3 in the second question set. But this isn’t true for most.

The study showed that Treatment A was chosen by 72% of participants when it was presented with positive framing (“saves 200 lives”) – Option 1. Whereas Treatment B was chosen by 78% of participants when presented with negative framing (“A 33% chance that no people will die, 66% probability that all 600 will die.”) – Option 4.

What does this mean?

It means that most people avoid risk when a positive frame is proposed, but seek out risk when a negative frame is proposed (based on the exact same data).

Let that sink in.

So what does this mean for you as a business negotiator? Well if you’re a salesperson trying to replace an incumbent, essentially you are presenting the buyer with 2 choices. Now with the information you have, you can choose to present the options with a positive or negative frame to increase the likelihood of returning your desired result.

Okay. Slow down. Do you realize what this means for your negotiations? Think about that for a second.

Now that you know how to apply this information. What else can you apply this to in a negotiation? How else can you apply this in a negotiation?

This is powerful and admittedly takes a fair amount of planning and practice, but if applied correctly, you can craft and shape the cognitive bias of the other party you are negotiating with to whichever way you desire.