Language Reflects Your Framing
Generate a Variety of Possible Ideas Before Deciding
Frames are "mental structures that shape the way we see the world" (Lackoff, 2004). How we frame a situation influences the language we choose to describe it, how we think about it, what we think about the people involved, and what our ideas are about possible "solutions." How we frame a situation can limit our choices for making situations better or can open up a wide realm of possibilities for our communities.
It is crucial to pay attention to the language you use in your community work, because your language reflects the underlying way you frame a situation. Through your word choice, you emphasize certain aspects of the issue, focus the listener in particular ways, and encourage certain interpretations while discouraging others. Consider the following example of a discussion agenda for a community visioning meeting.
|Framed Using Deficits Language||Framed Using Assets Language|
What If We Think About This Another Way? (Continued)
Money (financial assets)
Not so much here
Working together (cultural assets)
Tradition of the school and community coming together to make major improvements in the school, particularly recreation facilities
Benches, signs for the trail (built assets)
Not so much here
Land for the nature trail (natural assets)
Promise from the principal that school property could be used
After making this list, Derrick and Mrs. Poole realized that there were plenty of people and resources they could turn to for help in developing the nature trail.
Mrs. Poole shared the list with the supportive teachers at lunchtime. They added even more resources to the brainstormed list.
With renewed confidence, Mrs. Poole and Derrick made another appointment to talk with the principal. This time she was ready to talk about "what was possible."
After reading each column, what feelings do you have about the community visioning
meetings? Does the deficits column make you feel differently than the assets column?
If so, why? How does the choice of words affect the tone and emphasis in each column?
Hopefully you have more positive feelings as you read the assets language column. The questions are much more positive and growth oriented. Remember, it's crucial to pay attention to the language you use in your community work, because your language reflects the underlying way you frame a situation.