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The importance of framing (in negotiations)

By David L Loseby

When we talk about frames and reframing it isn’t the sort of frame you might think of to adorn your beloved Van Gogh Sunflowers over the mantlepiece but the cognitive sort!

In essence frames are cognitive shortcuts that people use to help make sense of complex information. Frames help us interpret the complex world around us and how we might represent the situation, context and other salient factors to others. Further, they help use organise complex issues into coherent understandable packages of information that is readily able to be understood. Hence its relevance in the arena of complex negotiations is paramount. Therefore, frames provide meaning through selective simplification, by filtering people’s perceptions and providing them with a field of vision for issue, proposition, etc.

It may help to visualise them as a set of lenses or filters, much in the same way as you will have witnessed in a school science lesson all those years ago and how the view can be altered depending on the filter that is applied in front of them. This lens is a unique lens specific to each individual and in reality, no two are the same! Therefore, the role of a negotiator is to establish as far as is reasonably possible what is the frame or lens upon which the other party is viewing the negotiation.

The concept of frames and framing has been developed as a tool for analysis in various fields, including psychology, sociology, business management, artificial intelligence (AI), decision making ⁷ to name but a few.

In a detailed paper set out in our knowledge section we have developed a practitioner’s guide, which can be accessed by following the attached link:

David Loseby has over 25 years of experience as a senior procurement

David L. Loseby

professional and is the author of “Soft Skills for Hard Business” (Cambridge Academic Press) – a book that focuses on procurement effectiveness through the development of soft skills.

The Procurement Doctor blog ( has been designed for procurement and supply chain professionals to share best practice in order to improve both our profession and its reputation. Come and join the debate – contributions, articles and editorial content always welcome

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