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Question the frame or the question

Hello guys,

I learned something simple yesterday that I want to share with you.

Situation

A nurse (yes again) asked me in the hospital: "Do you prefer to work in hospital A or hospital B?" She was comparing two affiliated hospitals: one where I worked during the past 6 months (A) and the other one is the one I'm working in now (B). I'll still be working in hospital A in the coming 3 months.

I knew it was a trap so I thought for a few seconds. She even acknowledged: "Trap question!". So I said: "It depends for what". I should have stopped there but my ego wanting to elaborate, I said: "I generally prefer hemato-oncology better than general pediatrics".

This was a mistake because I said it in front of the nurses of general pediatrics department where I'll be working in the next 3 months. So because I was tired I shot myself in the foot. Even though I had defended well with a philosopher's frame.

Basically, she was trying to take sides against hospital A and I ended up taking sides against general pediatrics. A progress, but I'm not there yet.

What did I learn?

In defending against a disempowering frame/question ("attack"), it's important to challenge it. I wrote "challenge" because I think it's better mindset than "control the frame" or "fight for the frame".

When you "challenge", you challenge the validity of what is being said.

When you challenge a disempowering frame, you think and say: "I don't think this is what is happening right now". Then you can say out loud what you think is happening. But this demands detachment. A detached state. We also have the right to take time to think before answering. At least until we learn the skill and it's faster.

When you challenge a disempowering question, you think: "this is not a legitimate or honest question". Therefore the best answer to such questions is: "why do you ask this question?". This is a surfacing technique. Most of the times, then we can go back to a philosopher frame and end it there. However, it forces the person to justify their question. Either it was honest or it was not. However, it gives us intel about the intention of the other person. It makes it easier for us to say the bare minimum while staying polite.

This thread is about the mindsets around self-defense, which will help to say the right things.

What do you think?

Lucio Buffalmano, Transitioned and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoTransitionedOcean's ElevenZen Mauri

I'm changing the wording, I think it's better to "question the frame or the question", it's more neutral. This is helpful because it won't frame the other as a an "attacker" and therefore won't generate strong emotions.

Hey John,

Yeah, I like that "question the frame" a lot actually, since the typical approach of (mostly male) self-improvement so far has been to "control the frame", which can easily lead people towards a confrontational attitude, and to escalate more interactions, and to make more enemies, than one needs to.

I might add the name/mindset to PU actually.

You didn't do too bad here:

You: It depends for what. I generally prefer hemato-oncology better than general pediatrics.

You stated it as a personal preference, you didn't badmouth anything or anyone.
If you had added in the end "but pediatrics also has its advantages, and I've met some great people there".

Then to move off the subject you could have added:

You: Have you ever been there?

Notice here the Machiavellian power-awareness: you don't ask "how about you".

Why not?

Because that would put her at your same level.

You ask her if she's been there.
You can be at the same level geography and experience-wise, but better not at work/skill/authority level (especially since they seem to enjoy power moving and challenging authority there).

John Freeman, Transitioned and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
John FreemanTransitionedOcean's ElevenZen Mauri
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on January 28, 2021, 4:16 pm

Then to move off the subject you could have added:

You: Have you ever been there?

Notice here the Machiavellian power-awareness: you don't ask "how about you".

Why not?

Because that would put her at your same level.

You ask her if she's been there.
You can be at the same level geography and experience-wise, but better not at work/skill/authority level (especially since they seem to enjoy power moving and challenging authority there).

Thanks a lot for your answer, I'm glad we agree on this topic of "questioning the frame". What I'm learning about social skills is that the advanced levels are about social finessing. So it gets more subtle as one advances in this skillset.

About the quote above: we were there at the same time in small hospital A. They were "borrowed" from hospital B because of a shortage of personnel. That's where I met her the first time. So it's like now we meet in "her environment" (which she thinks it's better, I know she told me a few months ago) and is now asking me to evaluate small hospital A vs university hospital B. That being said, your advice is indeed next-level. That is the kind of subtlety I'm willing to learn.

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