Game of Thrones: How Power Really Works

October 1, 2019

Let’s talk about the core of all communication
— the thing that determines how persuasive you are if you get what you want. In the case
of this video, if you live or die. Speaking of, I should let you know that we’ll
be exploring this particular thing through the world of Game of Thrones. So, yes, life
and death does come into play, and the thing that we’re going to be exploring is called
a “FRAME.” And you’ll see that in a lot of ways, the
Game of Thrones is really a Game of Frames, but I’m getting ahead of myself. First off,
what is a frame? A frame is, basically, all of the unstated
beliefs that give context to any interaction. The frame gives meaning to the words that
we say. So, the difference between me saying “Cool!” and saying “cool” comes from the belief
that I have when I say that word. The first thing that I want to talk about
is the importance of frames when trying to convince someone of anything. In this next
clip, the two characters whose faces that you’re going to see are passing through the woods,
when some pretty savage people who roam the mountains find them. Watch this clip and see
if you can note each person’s frame, meaning each person’s beliefs that they bring to the interaction. Clearly, there are a handful of different
frames in the scene. You have the people who are surrounding them and their frame appears
to be “You’re surrounded. We’re in control and we’re going to kill you.” Bronn, the guy
who pulls his sword has this same exact frame, except that he intends to fight so that he
doesn’t get killed. But, Tyrion, the dwarf, proposes a totally different frame. He acts
as if their friend. He acts as if he’s inviting them to share their food and their fire, like
they just stumbled upon him. The genius of this frame is that if they accept it, he
will escape with his life. So let’s watch what happens. Here, Tyrion responds in the same fashion
as the man that he’s speaking to, saying his father’s and family’s name. Again, his frame
is that they’re introducing themselves as friends, but clearly it’s not going so well. So, now, he’s tried this friend frame twice.
It’s not working, so what can you do? Because this type of situation with much, much lower
stakes is going to happen in your life. You will want someone to assume your frame but
they’re going to resist, so watch how Tyrion handles it. He totally breaks this guy’s frame with humor.
See the laughter there? In this frame, and in real life, too, laughter is a telltale
sign that someone has had their frame shifted. Usually, it’s the person who is laughing that
has had their way of viewing the world disrupted, and, in this case, the guy with the axe thought
that Tyrion should choose right then, and right there how he die. Tyrion purposely misinterpreted his question.
He added a bit of humor and that was enough to make this guy break his frame and laugh.
If you’ve ever tried to be mad at someone while they continually make you laugh over
and over and over again, you know what this feels like. It gets tough to stay mad at them
because they’ve re-framed you and they’ve interrupted your pattern of being upset. In these moments, right after someone has
shifted their frame is when they are most open to being persuaded. So the lesson here,
for your own life, nothing to do with Game of Thrones, is that if you’re trying to persuade
someone, and they’re being resistant, don’t just keep pushing. Instead, you need to re-frame
them and humor is a great way to do it. You see here? Tyrion doesn’t just plead for
their lives. Now that he’s broken their frame and at least gotten them to listen, he can
begin to persuade them. And if you’re interested, I can cover the full list of persuasion tactics
that Tyrion uses because there are many, but suffice it to say, that if someone is being
resistant while you’re trying to persuade them, the answer is not just to go over and
over again down the same path. You need to disrupt their pattern, you need to re-frame them,
and, then, you can begin to speak to their interest and speak more logically. For now,
let’s just continue talking about frames and move to insults. Every single insult you’ve ever said or heard
is a frame game. Even from the school days of “I’m rubber, you’re glue,” the goal is,
generally, to turn the insult on the person who said it, and I do not recommend engaging
with someone who’s putting you down or insulting you, I usually just try to take the frame
of this isn’t worth my time and then walk away, but it’s still informative to watch
how frames determine exactly who wins one of those back and forth exchanges. So watch
this clip. In this case, Tyrion is talking to Robb Stark, who does not like him or his
family very much. Watch here. This is a fairly straightforward insult or
even just a diss. Tyrion calls Robb “Boy,” insulting his inexperience, and then, Robb
denies it, saying that he is a lord. Tyrion responds by saying that he isn’t behaving
exactly like a lord should. So, despite his protest, Robb, the guy at the end here, doesn’t
come out of that exchange looking so great. Fighting the frame of an insult normally makes
you look like a chump. Watch this next clip in contrast. In this
one, the same guy, Robb, has become commander of a huge army, and speaking to a prisoner
from Tyrion’s family–the family that he hates. Again, same insult, same guy. You’re a boy,
you’re inexperienced, you’re just playing it war, which is really not a great thing when
you’re in command of an entire army. But this time, something has changed. Watch how, instead
of fighting the frame, Robb flips it, and he uses it to his advantage. You see that? He takes the prisoner’s own
words and uses them against him. This works much, much better because an insult is really
just a battle to see who can control who. When you get mad at an insult and you fight
it, you have already lost. But when you don’t fight the words, and, instead, changes the
frame, meaning that you turn their insult into praise for you or an insult to them,
then you have taken control. That is how you win the frame game; not by having the best
zinger, but by being the person in control. So, the third and most important frame game
that I want to talk about is “OPTIONS” and, for this, I need to give a little context
for non-Game of Thrones fans. Tyrion, the dwarf, is wrongfully accused of murdering
the king. He’s basically set-up, his trial is a total farce, and he’s told that his options
are death or to plead for his life, and to be granted exile into the coldest, northernmost
part of the world, where he basically need to work as a servant for the rest of his life.
He’s told that those are his only choices, and that he better just beg for his life,
beg for exile in order to save himself, but, instead, he creates a third option and this is one
of the most famous scenes of the entire series This is basically how Tyrion survives all
of his encounters. He creates a third option that other people don’t see. Everyone thinks
that the choice is between exile and death, and he chooses trial by combat, which, strictly
speaking, in this world, is legal, but nobody presents it to him as an option. Earlier in the series, again, when he was
wrongfully framed for another assassination attempt that he didn’t commit, he’s held in
prison until he confesses. Those are basically his options. He can die in prison or confess
to a crime that he didn’t commit. But, instead, he cleverly stages a confession and uses that
public arena to his advantage. He’s able to shame his captors into giving him a trial.
Watch this. The point is this–whoever controls the options
has the power. Your options are rarely exactly what people tell you because that’s how people
have powers; they control options. The truth is that everything that is possible changes
based on your creativity. Nothing is fixed, so you need to be resourceful. You need to
not take what other people put on the table as your only choices. When you’re faced with
a decision that says this or that, and you don’t like either choice, refuse them both
and create a third way. The way out is probably going to be different every time, but the
realization that your options are never just exactly what people say they are, and that
you can break free from the options that are presented to you, is going to be valuable
for the rest of your life. That’s how you stay alive in the Game of Thrones, and that
is how you win in the game of life. If you’re interested in learning more about
solidifying your frame so that you don’t lose these frame games and miss out on options,
we’ve actually created a separate video on improving your confidence and your conviction.
It is a real-life exercise that you can do to boost your confidence in about one minute,
and I’ve used it repeatedly in those situations where a strong frame is really, really important–from
interviews, tough conversations, first dates, all those sorts of things. So, if you want to see that video, go ahead,
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