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Pre-Frames: Explanation, Techniques, Tips & examples

Pre-Frames: Explanation, Techniques, Tips & examples

What are pre-frames? They are a powerful technique to determine how things will go. In other words: you can use pre-frames to manage expectations. How do you do that? In this article you will find the most powerful examples and tips to use pre-frames.

What are pre-frames?

Pre-frames are basically a way to set the rules. Whoever controls the pre-frame, has made up the rules and has set the expectations. That is why it is so powerful and important.

Later on in this article, you will find plenty of examples.

Learn to work with pre-frames to manage expectations

Expectations have everything to do with setting frames. The English word for frame is: frame. There are a lot of different types of frames to work with to think with , but we’re going to use a specific type of frame. To be specific, we are going to work with pre-frames. Below you will learn to take two steps to create pre-frames.

Step 1 of managing expectations: make a list of what can certainly be expected

Make a list and name the list: “You can expect and demand this.”

Managing Expectations Step 2: List what absolutely cannot be expected

Make a second list and name this list, “You absolutely can’t expect this (but maybe it will be done anyway).”

Step 3 of managing expectations: now fulfill the expectations you have created

Now you can confidently carry out what you have listed in step 1. Now everyone knows what to expect and now it is even very easy to ‘overdeliver’!

If you have put in good pre-frames, you can get away with anything

manage expectations

If you ask someone to walk to the window and count how many red cars there are, this person’s subconscious will automatically answer that question as soon as he / she looks out the window. He won’t notice the other things, such as how many trash cans, children, or bicycles there are. His reference point is red cars. By using ‘preframes’, you make grateful use of this principle.

How do preframes for expectation management work?

With preframes you are already removing the objections in advance by diverting attention from them. You focus the frame on something completely different. You are, in a sense, influencing someone’s RAS (selective perception) . After the preframe is set up, people will only evaluate subsequent situations based on the particular conditions you set up.

Before you purchase a service, you could, for example, clarify the following expectation based on a preframe:

‘So we can both expect that when I call or email because something goes wrong, you will solve it within a day?’

Preframes ensure that you can defend your expectations !

Good to know: once you have set up a preframe, you can safely defend it . That is the power of a preframe! For example, if you are giving a presentation and you have set up the frame that will end the questions, you can refer anyone who wants to ask a question in between to the frame.

Create clear expectations and the right atmosphere thanks to preframes

You can also do preframing by creating a certain atmosphere in advance or by suggesting a certain mood in advance . So ask yourself: In what mood do I want to put the other person in? What resources are helpful here to access? Let’s look at some examples of preframing.

I have to be able to trust the people in my team and they have to be critical.
– Johan Cruijff

Examples of managing expectations based on preframes:

  • Suppose you are a real estate agent and you sell a property far away from the city center. One way to factor in that objection is to mention something like, “I’m not sure I should show you this house at the start of the conversation. It’s fantastic and a lot of people want it. The only problem is that it is a little too close to the city center because many people want beautiful scenery, especially for the children to grow up in. ” Now the question is not, is it too far away? But it is: is it too close?
    You don’t have to prove anything after that. You distract people by mentioning an objection that turns out positive afterwards, and they will notice that too.
  • Or you can take a completely different unit of measurement to assess the house. For example, assuming it’s a big house, you can say, “I’m not going to show you this house. It is a beautiful house and you will love it immediately. The only problem is I don’t know if it will be big enough for you guys because I know you want a big house.
    Now, of course, they go into it with the anticipation of judging the house by its size, not its distance from the city center. That question will no longer occur to them because they have been preoccupied with the current frame that you have set up in advance. The best part is of course that the house is already large, which means that the size issue is resolved anyway.
  • “A Ferrari runs on too many liters per kilometer. That is too expensive.” This argument is of course immediately resolved by the customer because you buy a Ferrari for completely different reasons and the fuel consumption is not relevant at all.
  • A teacher may say to his class, Some of you know exactly how this works, and the rest of you will be pleasantly surprised as you learn more and see your misconceptions about this subject swapped with new understanding.
  • A salesperson can say the following to his suspect and also believe in it: “Today is an exciting day for you, a great opportunity.” If the customer rejects it, the salesperson is not reactive and keeps the frame: “They are missing something. Buying is the only logical choice! ”
  • “I could be wrong, but …” With this you have outlined the frame that everything you say will be ‘expected’.
  • Welcome to this pleasant afternoon. I’m pleased to meet you. Feel welcome on this unique day where you will learn many things that will bring you pleasure, and I know you are very curious about what this special day will bring you.
  • You are unconsciously already very competent as {target ability. eg coach}!
  • A strong way to pre-frame is to have your own logical levels clear  for the context in which you are working, so that you have a strong. helpful preframe for yourself.
  • Sometimes we have these pressing questions, but you may find them too embarrassing to ask. Good news: nothing is more embarrassing when it is pre-framed . Let’s take an example of such an embarrassing case. Many freelancers know that prospects can suddenly drop out when you already thought you practically had an assignment. Or you suddenly don’t get any new assignments. Even then it is nice to set up a ‘preframe’ with which you create the expectation that at some point you will ask the following question: ‘You can expect me to ask the following question if I don’t hear from you anymore:’ Is it because you have no new assignments or is it because the satisfaction is not high enough? Or is there something else?
  • Before you interrupt someone, you can say, “I’m interrupting you for a moment …”
  • If you have made an appointment with someone and have set a date, you can always say: “It is subject to change: If something intervenes, just let them know. It is always possible to reschedule.”
  • If you want to give a workshop that is as simple as possible – for which you may not even have to pay an entrance fee – it is important to tell everyone in advance that they cannot wait at a facility level: “No lunch, no tea. Take your own. Dopper or thermos. “

A simple preframe that you can always use for positive expectation management

Before you say anything, say “good news” or “bad news.”

  • Do you have bad news to share? Then ring it in with, “Good news!” “Great news, recess is over!”
  • “This is the last performance again.” “Ah …” “But that means we’ll get to see 2 more stories!” {Applause and cheers!}
  • “This is the last performance again.” “Ah …” “But it will take another 5 minutes!” {Applause and cheers!}

Bonus tip for managing expectations: be ultra specific – Use this proven language model

manage expectations

You cannot manage expectations if only abstract terms are used. That is asking for trouble. Fortunately, there is a model that allows you to be ultra specific: the meta model . This model shows you which specific questions you can ask to clarify expectations.

For example, if someone on your team says, “We were asked to communicate the schedule.” Then the metamodel tells you to ask the following questions, for example:

  • Who asked this?
  • ‘Us’ doesn’t tell you who exactly is going to do this, so who is going to do this?
  • When should this be done?
  • Planning what? Because we’ve just talked about three different topics.

Memorize the meta-model and apply it to all situations where you feel that you need to be more specific in order not to let expectations get out of hand.

Success with pre-frames and managing expectations!

These were the most powerful tips for managing expectations with pre-frames. Do you have additions? Let them know in the comments.

About The Author


Hello! Thanks for reading these articles. My intention is to make happiness as simple and clear as posssible. By the way, excuse my English. I am not a native English speaker since I live in Amsterdam. Much appreciated if you use the comments to make suggestions on my grammar. See ya in another blogpost!