This article is a case study about how we got some police officers to arrest innocent people. This is not a skill that you are likely to want or to use in this fashion. But imagine for a moment that you had that amount of persuasive ability and could apply the concept in other areas to get people to do your bidding. Would that be useful?
Wherever We Go Our Baggage Precedes Us
This is an immensely powerful subject that needs a lot of consideration and it is always in operation. I am talking about frames and preframes. For example you are reading this article and it is on The NLP Company website. Just based on that you have certain expectations from this article.
You will notice that I call them articles…not blog posts. This is because I want to set an expectation in the mind of the reader. In my head there is a distinct difference between a blog post and an article and I want the reader to put my writing in the second category.
Many years ago when I was working through and developing many of these concepts I was in the lucky position that I could tinker with the insides of the heads of a few police officers. So we decided to do a little experiment to see just how far we could push the idea of preframes.
We took a group of police officers that were fresh out of the box and being trained up. They had no experience and had not been on the streets doing any police work. They had just learned about their powers to stop and search people. Usually at the end of a major subject they are given roleplays so they can integrate the knowledge and test how well they have taken the lessons on board.
We took a group of 40 baby police officers and randomly split them in to two groups. The general scenario was that a robbery had occurred in the vicinity and the person that they are about to stop and search fits the general description of the robber. That gives the officer grounds to make the search. They also have to know what they are looking for to legally make the search. So we told the officers that a knife was used in the robbery and that is what they are searching for. This is also a clue for them to consider their own personal safety whilst conducting the search.
The actor playing the person being stop searched was told to play the character as not fluent in English but otherwise completely compliant with the officer’s wishes. The character is not involved with the robbery and does not have the knife or anything illegal on him. A successful conclusion to the scenario would be for the officer to stop the individual, inform him of his rights in a way that he understands, searches him and then releases him when nothing is found.
That was all that was told to the first group…they were the control group. The second group were given an extra piece of information in the guise of community or local knowledge. We told them that the area had a large number of immigrants from a war torn part of the world. The immigrants due to their plight were more likely to carry knives and more likely to quickly escalate into violence.
The results were astounding. Everyone in the control group got to the right result. The person was informed of his rights, the search was conducted, nothing found and the person was released. There was obviously some variance on how he was treated and both the communication and search skills of the officers involved but they all got to a successful conclusion.
With the other group on fourteen occasions the situation got out of hand, back up was called and the character ended up arrested for anything from breech of the peace right through to threatening behaviour and assault. On six occasions the officer took a “premptive strike” in order to take control of the perpetrator.
The perpetrator, remember the actor who was told to comply with the officer’s wishes, wasn’t carrying or doing anything illegal. The two groups were mixed ability groups at the same stage of their career and training and were picked completely randomly.
Some people have suggested that the second group had been primed to be more fearful. Whilst that may be true in both cases the officers were told that they are looking for a robber that has just used a knife in commission of the crime and that he still has the knife on him. The first group had as much reason to be concerned about their personal safety.
Just to make sure we are coming to the same conclusions. We seeded one group with some “general” information about the area. We didn’t tell them the type of immigrant, where they are from or even what they looked like.
They connected that information to the person they were stop and searching. To some degree I can understand that they are in a role play and so why would they be given information if it wasn’t relevant. But from there they made assumptions about him and his behaviour to such a degree that on several occasions they attacked him and 75% of the time they needlessly arrested an innocent man.
I have a number of these stories. One day I will tell you about the scenario where well over half of the time an actor playing a motorist is dragged out through the car window. The “crime” is being illegally parked but he is fully prepared to do what the officer asks. The scenario could have been over very quickly if the officer just simply asks the motorist to move on. But because of the way the scenario is set (and it is not an unusual situation) over half the officers end up trying to drag the man through the car window and arresting him.
I don’t want to frighten people or besmirch the police so please recognise these is stuff that is happening to baby coppers that have no experience. I would be wrong to suggest that miscarriages of justice don’t happen but I would not expect these high percentages in the real world because the officers will have been fully trained and crewed with a more experienced officer until they have built up some street skills.
But How Can I Use This?
This isn’t about what you can make baby police officers do. This is about how you can set up conditions to get people to do what you want.
We all know about first impressions and looking or dressing the part. That is certainly part of preframes in action. If I stay with the police and stop search. Many people will comply with a police office in full uniform asking to go search them. The percentage rises if the officer explains why they are doing it and what they are looking for. Imagine the difference if a normally clothed random stranger came up and asked to go through your pockets. What do you think would be the rate of compliance?
If you are into social dynamics and like starting conversations with strangers just preframing your opening lines will give you a better result.
Have a shot at talking to a few strangers but start the conversation by using a preframe that installs a little bit of emotion. Here are a few to get your going:
- I’m sorry but I just have to tell you…
- You will hate me for saying this but…
- You will love this idea…
- I have an intuition about you…
- I need your help, can I ask you a question…
- You might know this already but I will regret it forever if I don’t say…
Once you say the line just pause for a few moments and let the person get drawn in. In fact if you are really into practising say the line, pause for a slow count to ten. Invariably the other person is desperate to hear what you have to say.
I am sure you can think of a hundred more phrases and ideas like this. All you are doing is installing a little curiosity or tension before saying what you wanted to say.
In sales they use the same principle and create a headline or hook at the beginning of the pitch to draw you in.
It will drive you mad if you did this for any length of time but consider doing this for a little while just to see how it changes your skills. Think about each sentences and a preframe for the next and imagine how that restructures your language. I’m doing it now, I don’t always find it easy but it does develop your linguistic skills. And once you develop some skill you can also consider how post framing a sentence might work.
For me the most useful applications of this sort of thinking is in business. For years I have worked exclusively in a consulting, training and coaching environment. One of the key problems associated with these areas is that your results are limited by how much your client actually does with what you say.
As a consultant if the company doesn’t implement your suggestions or do it in some haphazard way they may not get the results you predicted and it is most likely you that they will blame. It is the same with training and coaching…you need your clients to act on what they get from the session or course.
For this reason I’ve spent many years looking at and developing the preframe you need to install in your prospect before they become a paying client. And as we have moved into the internet age I have developed those ideas to take you to attracting the right clients and turning away the time wasters so you can focus your attention on the people that are raving fans and are going to take the most from what you have to give…and obviously pay you the best rewards.
If you want to find out more about how you can do this for yourself and your business then come and have a look at the Trancey Coaching Conversations course where I lay it all out for you. Click through and find out more here: