One of the most important concepts of lawyering is not responding to a situation or question merely as framed by the other side. I frequently remind my clients (and my kids) not to allow the other person to frame your response. Rather, first take a step back and decide what, if any, defects are in the assumptions presented by the question, then consider a more optimal, alternative manner of framing the situation, then move forward with a response.
Touching on the above concept is an excellent book I am currently reading. The book is Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman discusses a vast amount of research that shows how we all are affected by what he calls anchoring.
As an example of anchoring, what are your responses to the following two questions:
Was Gandhi 104 years old at the time of his death? And if not, how old was he when he died?
Most people answering these two questions will be unconsciously affected by the 104-year reference in the first question with the result that their answer to the second question as to Gandhi’s age at death will be close to the range of 104 years.
However, the responses to the two questions will be significantly different if the first question is changed to “Was Gandhi 34 years old at the time of his death?” In this case, the answers will be more in the range of 34, or thereabouts.
By the way, Gandhi was 78 when he died.
Being influenced by the framing of the question is called anchoring in psychological circles (and advertising, marketing, political circles). Kahneman suggests that we are all influenced every day by anchoring. It is inescapable. The key, however, is that we at least be aware of it and how anchoring can affect our responses and reactions.