Yesterday, I was reading two completely different articles and both talked about George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant. The first was in the recent Quarterly Essay on Voting for Jesus by Amanda Lohrey on the intersection of Christianity and Politics in Australia (a great read by the way). The second I can’t quite remember – I tend to read so much different stuff and I can’t seem to put a handle on what it was – just a mild case of infoluenza there!
I mentioned Lakoff in one of my presentations last year – stating that knowledge is about different frames of enquiry. Lakoff explores reframing through linguistic analysis in political campaigns, noting that conservatives have been successful through being able to control the language of key political issues (eg war on terror, children overboard). It is very difficult to compete using these terms as saying anything against these arguments can be easily discounted.
It reminded me of a Dave Snowden comment I heard him say, “Never argue with a fact against a story: you’ll die”. Instead, you need to influence a different type of story to emerge – or as Lakoff says, reframe the conversation using different language. Apart from being a well-known NLP technique, it also requires a capacity to explore topics using different perspectives or approaches that are at a higher level of morality (Kohlberg), ego development (Torbett) or values (Graves). The particular skill is how then to change the language to be able to engage the majority of people using different language.