FrameLab Hacks: One Simple Way to Instantly Power Up Your Communications

There’s one simple step you can take to instantly make your communications more powerful. By eliminating just one word from your writing you can automatically avoid a major communication pitfall. The word?

Not. Cut the Not!

Think about it. You normally use this word to say the opposite of what you are trying to say or do. You use it to counter an argument or idea, as if positioning this three-letter negation in front of a bad idea is a magic trick to make it disappear. But this is the exact opposite of how human brains process information.

When you repeat a false argument, even for the purpose of saying it’s “not true,” you help make the argument stronger in the minds of your readers. Because of the way your brain’s neurocircuitry works, you activate the frames you are trying to negate. Those bad ideas become stronger in the brains of your audience. You also waste space at a time when concise writing has never been more important.

Think about it: It’s tough to get, and keep, a reader’s attention in today’s crowded information environment. Twitter only gives you 280 characters. An effective Facebook post is just as brief. To be successful, be succinct. The same is true for business memos, media pitches, press releases, and speeches.

Powerful communications get to the point quickly, make it effectively, and provide the reader with clear paths. So, how much time and space do you waste saying the opposite of what you’re trying to say?

Eliminating the word “not” from your writing forces you to make the proactive case instead of just (lazily) negating your opponent’s argument. Try it!

That’s the simple point.

For more examples, keep reading.

Warning: In this section, we will break our own rule in order to illustrate the point with examples.

 Let’s take the issue of immigration. Immigrants are under attack from Republicans, who use the issue to stoke political polarization and energize their base. One of their tactics is to make false accusations against the immigrant community. And how do many progressives respond to these attacks? Too often, they respond by repeating the attacks.

Republicans accuse immigrants of being “dangerous criminals.” Progressives respond by saying immigrants are “not dangerous criminals.” Republicans accuse immigrants of being “terrorists.” Progressives respond by saying “immigrants are not terrorists.”

This also happens when talking about the environment. Republicans created the concept of “clean coal” so that opponents would be forced to argue “coal is not clean.”

Yet by constantly associating the word “coal” with “clean,” environmental activists do the work of their opponents. The same is true on the immigration issue. When immigrant rights advocates take the bait and repeat the negative labels that Republicans apply – even to negate them – they strengthen the association between the two.

President Trump makes this same mistake when he tweets “No Collusion!” He automatically makes us think about collusion with Russia, just as Richard Nixon made everyone think of a crook when he went on TV and said, “I am not a crook.”

So how to avoid this trap? First, Cut the Not!

When anti-immigrant politicians say: “Immigrants are [negative label]”

Respond by saying: “Immigrants are [positive label]”

Examples: “Immigrants are our neighbors.” “Immigrants are our families.” “Immigrants are our heroes.”

Never say: “Immigrants are not [negative label]”

The same goes for environmental issues.

When fossil fuel companies say: “Coal is [positive label]”

Respond by saying: “Coal is [negative label]”

Examples: “Coal is dirty.” “Coal is dangerous.” “Coal is harmful.”

Never say: “Coal is not [positive label]”

Always say what you believe, directly. Whatever the issue or argument at hand, remember that the word “not” generally ensures you will repeat your opponent’s argument.

Practice: Try cutting “not” from your writing. It may be impossible to avoid using it in some contexts. But by simply becoming more aware of how this word functions, your communication will automatically improve.

Give it a try, and let us know how it works out for you.

Gil and George

Dr. George Lakoff and Gil Duran Officially Launch FrameLab Communications

BERKELEY – Dr. George Lakoff and Gil Duran today officially launched FrameLab Communications, a message framing and communications strategy firm. FrameLab will work with a select group of businesses, nonprofit organizations, and political operations that serve the public interest.

Dr. Lakoff is the world’s best-known expert on the framing of social and political issues. He is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught for 44 years after teaching for six years at Harvard and the University of Michigan. He is the best-selling author of Don’t Think of An Elephant (2004), the handbook on political framing, as well as many other books. Metaphors We Live By (1980), which he co-wrote with Mark Johnson, is credited with helping to inspire the user interface for the Mac.

“We know from the brain and cognitive sciences that thought is carried out by neural circuitry and is largely inaccessible to consciousness. Techniques for studying unconscious thought have allowed us to discover the implicit worldviews motivating the progressive versus the conservative understandings of current issues and even facts,” said Dr. Lakoff. “FrameLab brings this research to bear on how best to frame values-based messages effectively and communicate them widely.”

Duran spent over a decade as a strategist and spokesperson for California’s top elected officials. He served as Press Secretary to Governor Jerry Brown twice – first at Oakland City Hall (2003-2007), then in Sacramento (2011-2013). He also served as Communications Director for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Communications Director for California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, and Press Secretary for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa. Most recently, he served as Senior Vice President for Communications and Senior Advisor at Tom Steyer’s NextGen America.

“When I read Don’t Think of An Elephant in 2005, I experienced a seismic shift in my approach to communications and gained a powerful advantage over the competition,” said Duran. “I’ve had the privilege of consulting with Dr. Lakoff during some of the biggest challenges in California politics, and it’s an honor to formalize our partnership with FrameLab. We look forward to using every bit of our knowledge and skill to serve the public good at this critical time.”

At FrameLab, Lakoff and Duran will focus on high-level framing, messaging, and strategy for clients, and will offer a full range of services in cooperation with a partner firm. Lakoff and Duran co-host a podcast – also called FrameLab – which focuses on politics, language, and the brain. It has thousands of listeners in over 50 countries.

Their partnership has also produced multiple viral social media pieces focused on framing, messaging, and communications.

For more information on how to work with FrameLab, please email or call 510-545-9773.

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Lakoff and Duran in Sacramento Bee: What to look for in Trump’s State of the Union Speech

FrameLab founders Dr. George Lakoff and Gil Duran penned a new essay for the California Forum section of the Sacramento Bee. From their op-ed, published in the Sunday paper:

When President Donald Trump gives the State of the Union on Tuesday night, the citizens of a divided America will hear two different speeches.

Conservatives will hear a triumphal list of victories and successes. It will be a tale of battles fought and won against tall odds, delivered with Trump’s signature hyperbole. Dishonestly, he’ll heap credit upon himself for positive economic and crime trends that gained momentum before the 2016 election. He’s made no secret of his delusional belief that, despite abysmally low poll numbers, he’s succeeding at the job better than any previous president. Expect his speech to build on that theme. His base will eat it up.

FrameLab Partner Dr. George Lakoff Interviewed by Deutsche Welle

Dr. George Lakoff was interviewed by the German publication Deutsche Welle concerning his thoughts on President Trump’s communications style.

From the interview:

Dr. Lakoff: Language activates an idea and a circuitry in your brain. And the result of that is every time a circuit is activated, its synapses get stronger. So the more you hear certain things, even if you just hear and understand them, the circuitry gets stronger.

Read more here:

Lakoff and Duran in Sacramento Bee: How to Stop Falling for Trump’s Tweets

From FrameLab co-founders Dr. George Lakoff and Gil Duran in the Sacramento Bee:

President Donald Trump’s use of social media has radically transformed presidential communications. His short bursts of text move markets, disrupt diplomacy and inflame political anxiety almost daily.

His smartphone has become one of the most powerful weapons in political history. As a result, there’s a growing pressure campaign by many Democrats to force Twitter to ban him. But kicking Trump off of Twitter would fail to address the real problem.

Fast Company: Trump’s Tweets Can Be Reduced to Four Rhetorical Strategies

From Fast Company:

Lakoff writes on Twitter, “Each tweet gets his message retweeted so he dominates social media. Reporters, social media influencers, and many others fall for it hook, line, and sinker. Every time…They may think they’re negating or undermining him, but that’s not how human brains work. As a cognitive scientist, I can tell you: Repeating his messages only helps him.”

Read more:

San Francisco Magazine: Rewiring the Democratic Brain with George Lakoff

From San Francisco Magazine:

Lakoff and Durán are pursuing a two-track strategy to transform progressive messaging. They’ve started a for-profit consultancy called FrameLab, which has had a handful of high-profile clients like the Environmental Defense Fund. And they’ve begun work on their think tank, an online hub tentatively called the Citizens’ Communication Network, which will disseminate Lakoff ’s ideas to individuals and liberal organizations via communications resources such as graphics, live streams, and Q&As. They’re currently approaching deep-pocketed left-wing donors for funding; their fallback plan is to fund the CCN with the profits from FrameLab.

Read More: