How you say something often matters far more than what you say. To
understand why consider a photo on the wall. In that photo there is a picture
that tells a story and surrounding that picture is a frame that casts that photo
in a certain context. Regardless of the photo, a rugged wooden frame casts the
picture in a different light than does a cold metallic one or one of a warm
bright color. Shapes and textures also change the perception as each frame can
subtly change how we perceive the picture even though the picture may always the
same. In politics, business and in life how we frame things can dramatically
affect how they’re perceived.
The army serves as a good example of framing. Soldiers are taught to stand
and walk with a tall frame because it makes them seem stronger and more
confident. By contrast people who walk hunched over and make a habit of staring
at their shoes tend to be seen as more weak and lacking confidence. In each
case your frame and how you present it is a reflection of how the world
perceives you. People often see the frame long before the picture and thus will
naturally preconceive whether you’re strong or weak before even meeting you.
How you choose to present yourself, your products and your organization can all
impact how they’ll be perceived.
In the past we’ve subtly covered how framing can impact how politicians are
perceived. For example, we once noted a
2007 pre-election speech in which we broke down the frequency in which Premier
Brown spoke in a first vs second and third person sense. This was but one
example of where the Premier predominantly focused on speaking in first person and
most often, referencing himself. Is it this kind of phrasing or ‘framing’ that
lends itself to Premier Brown being perceived by a great many people as being
self interested? Indeed if he were to primarily phrase things this way when he
speaks publically would he develop such a perception? Other than through action
how else is such a perception conceived?
We can take a similar approach to how we examine the framings that make up
Bermuda’s official opposition. The United Bermuda Party allowed themselves for
years to be framed as an evil white party that committed great atrocities.
Today it matters little whether these claims are based in truth for the
perception is that they are. Ultimately today how people perceive the UBP is
affected by how they’ve been framed. Each initiative they undertake and word
that they speak is viewed by many from the perception that they’re an evil white
party. As former Progressive Labour Party Chairman David Burt eloquently once
suggested it is important to define your opponent before they have a chance to
Similarly we recently
noted the framing used by Bermuda’s newest political party “The Alliance”
and the risks they face by not framing themselves correctly. In some
cases their public statements are phrased in an exclusive and imposing manner.
Do they intentionally frame themselves in that way or is their intention to
instead be welcoming and inclusive? If so why slouch and look at your shoes if you want people to see you as strong and confident? Shouldn't you stand tall? Indeed, should they not be rushing to define
themselves or risk being defined by others?
That photo on the wall translates to many things in life. Behind that frame
could be an incredible organization, product or person. It could reflect a
caring and genuine image of an individual or organization who wishes for only the
best of who or what they represent. It could truly be something overlooked and yet placed
behind the wrong frame many could do just that. They say you can’t judge a book
by its cover and yet do people tend to judge a photo by its frame? As we’ve
noted, perception can be reality and ultimately does how you say something often
matter far more than just what you say?