“The way in which we frame an issue largely determines how that issue will be understood and acted upon.” So begins an article by Dr. Biljana Scott that analyzes President Obama’s 2010 Nobel speech to illustrate how to frame an argument.

Dr. Scott highlights several effective framing mechanisms:

  • assertion,

  • pre-emotive arguments,

  • appeal to authority and precedent,

  • typecasting,

  • selective disclosure,

  • semantic categories,

  • appeal to emotion through stories in a capsule,

  • clusivity,

  • shared aspirations,

  • redress,

  • the use of musical devices, and

  • ethos and credibility.

The objective? “To change the attitudes and associated behaviour of another party in line with one’s own beliefs (or a set of beliefs which suits our purpose).” This calls for a mix of force through assertion and grace through attentiveness—achieved through the mindful use of language:

The person who takes the initiative in assigning members to categories, defining key terms and pursing a well-reasoned argument is likely to maintain control of the topic under discussion.

Framing an argument