The other night I was headed to a Toastmasters meeting. There was a new maître d’ at the restaurant and I could tell he was a little nervous as I walked toward the meeting room. I smiled and said, “Greetings and hallucinations.” This a slight twist on Mr. Spock’s greetings of, “Greetings and Salutations.” The poor guy became more confused, looked at me and asked, “Did you say three?” I chuckled and replied, “ I said hallucinations.” As the look on his face became more confused I continued, “Don’t worry, that was out of the frame.” He stood there with a blank expression on his face as I wheeled around and headed for the meeting.
The old idiom, “Not everyone is on the same page” can explain were most of the confusion is in a presentation. This idiom refers to a frame of reference, in which all conversations are set. In the example above, the frame of the maître d’ was the typical conversation of a maître d’. The normal frame includes a short conversation of, “How are you?”, “How many in your party?” “Is this your first time?”, etc. I forced him out of the frame because I did not say what was in his frame of “normal” for that situation.
Your audience, whether it is a client, coworker, boss, friend, family member, or group, has a frame of reference during all your interaction with it. Typically, if the interaction is not going well, it’s because different frames of reference are intersecting. Once you realize what is going on, it’s your responsibility to make an effort to understand the other person’s frame.
Normally, this is the section in which I give you a nugget of wisdom on how to handle the situation. I wish a nugget were all that is needed. I’ve spent over a quarter of a century trying to understand other people’s frames and how they created them. From that research I developed the REPS Matrix to help others understand frames faster.
The only simple piece of advice I can give, is to ask yourself this question: “What would this person have to believe for them to act this way?” This is a very powerful question, which allows you to build good relationships. Those good relationships with your audience are what will bring you success.