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The “Agreement Frame”: how to express another viewpoint so people will listen to you

Everyone sees things from a different point of view. Expressing a different point of view can easily escalate into conflict if not carefully managed, especially if the other person’s opinions have a lot of emotion attached to them.

Usually when people disagree with someone, they use the word “but” to preface their own viewpoint. “But” has the effect of negating or erasing the internal representation of what that has been said before it, even if that internal representation is strongly positive – as in the case of “I love you, but…”

In fact, it can get to the point where when they hear a stream of compliments or pleasant things, they’re just waiting for the “but” – or as my friend Jonathan Altfeld says, they smell a “but” coming.

“But” is not the only word that has this effect, though it’s about the most abrupt one. “However” is only slightly milder than “but” – it has nearly as much erasing effect on whatever statement precedes it. “Although” is a bit milder still, but could still get people’s backs up.

Not surprisingly, people don’t care for having their “truth” blotted out. They may feel disregarded, disrespected and angry – not a good state for getting them to change their minds or even be open to new information.

If you want to express your viewpoint while maintaining rapport by acknowledging another person’s right to hold a different view, you can use the “agreement frame” which uses “and” in place of “but”.

1. “I agree”: If you actually agree with the other person’s point, but want to add a different perspective:

“I agree with you, and have you considered that it could also appear like this…”

2. “I respect”: if want to show that you find something to respect in what the other person has said, despite disagreeing with it (e.g. the positive intention behind what they have said):

“I respect your honesty in saying that, and you may want to be aware of this different viewpoint….”

3. “I appreciate”: if you can’t find anything to agree with or even respect, you can at least acknowledge the other person’s opinion:

“I appreciate the depth of your convictions about this, and I know you will respect other people’s right to a different view…”

Note the different internal representations of “but” and “and”: “but” pretty much erases whatever goes before it, while “and” gives you two internal representations side by side, at least if the person is representing them visually.

Just as an aside, here’s what not to say when applying the Agreement Frame:

“I understand…” – this can sound patronising. What the person hears might be along the lines of “I have already thought of and dismissed whatever your little mind is capable of coming up with.”

Plus, if you miss or misunderstand any little detail of what the person meant, even if it’s irrelevant to their main point, they can seize on it to demonstrate in their own mind that you don’t understand them at all.

There’s more useful examples and pattern variations of the Agreement Frame, plus lots of other downright sneaky persuasion stuff, in my friend Rintu Basu’s splendid Persuasion Skills Black Book: Practical NLP Language Patterns for Getting The Response You Want. It’s a must-read if you’re interested in the application of NLP to persuasion and influencing techniques.

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1 comment

  1. Andy Smith

    It's worth adding that 'but' is worth using if that's actually what you mean. When I was running the Richmond NLP Group, I invited a well-known NLP trainer to do an evening for us. He replied "I'd love to, and I'm working in London that day."

    "Great!" I thought. It wasn't until I called him the week before the date to check that he knew how to find us that I discovered that what he had meant was "I'd love to, *but* I'm working in London that day (so won't be able to make it)."

    In this case, 'but' would have conveyed the meaning a lot better.

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