The book The Persuaders profiles people like Anat Shenker-Osorio, a political communications strategist, who are changing minds and building bridges across divided groups. Shenker-Osorio’s genius is in helping political groups reframe issues that break the left-right logjams that polarize us. Central to her work is the idea that by arguing on the conversational turf of the other side, you’re often not moving in the direction of compromise, but instead further entrenching people who actually might agree.
For example, if someone is looking to convince skeptics of the merits of the $15 minimum wage, framing the $15 wage through the lens of economic output and national GDP might lead to irreconcilable disagreements about labor markets and trickle-down economics. Instead, Shenker-Osorio advocates, it’s better to find common turf far away from the landmines of fraught politics. By reframing the issue in ethical terms—“people who work for a living ought to earn a living”—there might be a better chance of breaking through and resonating on a different intellectual or moral plane.
The conversational frames we select can be more important than our persuasive performances inside those conversations. Even before the conversation starts, the die often is cast by the frames we implicitly find ourselves within. It’s easy to be lured into the existing frames before us, accept their terms unwittingly, and then find ourselves further fractured or divided. It’s harder, but perhaps more constructive, to pause and consider if there might be an entirely different way to approach the conversation.