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How to Use Framing in Negotiations with Joel Trachtman, Ep #311

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What is framing? How do you use framing in negotiations? How do you use framing to win arguments? In this episode of Negotiations Ninja, Joel Trachtman joins us to methodically dissect the topic.

Joel Trachtman is a Law Professor, who practiced for 9 years on Wall Street before shifting to teaching international law for the last 30+ years. He wrote the book, “The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win” to simplify the use of legal arguments in other contexts.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:27] Learn more about Joel Trachtman
  • [2:20] The basics of framing in negotiations
  • [4:16] Framing is a matter of imagination and preparation
  • [6:51] The best ways to win arguments with contracts
  • [12:08] If you can’t win on substance—argue procedure
  • [15:53] Who does the burden of proof fall on?
  • [17:38] The mistakes lawyers make in developing arguments
  • [20:35] Don’t ignore the importance of checklists

The basics of framing in negotiations

Are the words you use important? Or is it how you use those words that determine success?

Framing is putting a particular argument into a pre-existing narrative. That narrative must have consequences.

Is it a case of self-defense—or did someone commit murder? You must look at the facts, prioritize certain facts, and establish a frame. Any circumstance you’re arguing can be looked at in different ways. So you need to understand how your counterparty is looking at it. Once you gauge how they’re framing it, you can stress a different framing.

Health-based restrictions on cigarettes or sugary drinks can be seen as public health issues or freedom/human rights issues. You have the ability to take the facts and establish a different narrative to help a counterparty reach a different conclusion.

Everyone has multiple concerns and narratives in their lives that aren’t always consistent. If you can frame something one way, you might be able to persuade someone else of your position.

Framing is a matter of imagination and preparation

Joel notes that it’s important to be imaginative and prepared. What are the different ways in which this context could be understood by the counterparty? What are they thinking? How can you shift the way they’re thinking? What facts can you emphasize to do that? A healthy curiosity toward how someone else views something is where many people struggle. How do you say what you need to say so it resonates with that person?

Is there a precedent?

Lawyers look at prior cases to see if there is “precedent” for an argument in the current case they’re working on. It can be used in general negotiations as well, i.e., “This is the way we’ve always done this.” In discussing precedent, you must look for ways that the current case is similar to a previous case (or cases) with the outcome that you desire. You have to select the characteristics of the current circumstance and compare them to a prior case in which things came out the way you want.

What mistakes do negotiators often make when they’re developing an argument? What do you do if someone isn’t acting rationally? And if you can’t argue on “substance” how do you argue procedure? Joel answers these questions—and much more—in this episode of Negotiations Ninja. Don’t miss it!

Resources & People Mentioned

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