A Frame of Mind

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but I can’t say that I have ever really mastered taking what’s on my mind and converting it into the spoken word. Sometimes I get tongue twisted. Often times I mean to say something in a totally unbiased light but end up saying it in a way that can be misconstrued as being blunt or manipulative, opening myself up to being read incorrectly. Or there’s logic in something I’m trying to explain but fumble at the words to explain it. Oddly enough, though body language and tone can be difficult to express in writing, I think I usually express myself better when I take to the pen or keyboard since I’m not required to get the words and phrasing correct off the cuff. I usually do a fairly good job of expressing myself, however, if I’ve got enough time and can revise my words to my heart’s content (as I’m doing with this blog entry).Looking for ways to improve my command of language, I often ponder the details of conversations that I have taken part in or witnessed. I think about the body language, the tone of voice and the particular choice of words when describing or labeling something within the conversation. It’s not always obvious, but choosing a particular set of words to describe an idea can frame in such a way that can subtlely influence on the outcome of a conversation.I recently came across an interesting pair of articles by a professor at the University of California Berkeley named George Lakoff who has studied the influence of framing and how it is applied in politics. I found the article quite interesting, as he analyzes how the Bush administration and the “conservative” movement in general craftfully phrases its words to influence how its propagandaagendas are perceived and discussed by the public. He has also written a number of books (which of course I’ve added to my already frighteningly long reading list.)Of course, framing is everywhere, not just in politics. Public relations and marketing rely heavily on framing to influence how people perceive a corporation or product. Most of the time it’s not entirely obvious, especially to the uncritical eye/ear. For example, nutrition is a topic that’s become increasingly dear to my heart. Have you ever noticed how the recommendations in the US Department of Agiculture (USDA)’s Food Guide Pyramid never say “eat less?” I didn’t think so. Instead, pro-active phrases such as “eat a variety” or “choose a diet moderate in…” are used, which are much more open-ended. And that’s intentional, considering that the USDA is an organization that is looking out for the well being of the food industry, not your health. What sense would there be in the food industry telling people to eat (and therefore purchase) less food?The next time you listen, watch, or read the news or any type of media for that matter, pay attention to the words that are being used and see if you can identify any frames. You might be surprised what you find.

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