Imagine this. You’re about to enter into a conversation with a distressed client or employee. You want to honor their point of view while inviting them to see a different perspective. What can you do?
You can use a technique called the agreement frame. It is a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) tool that consists of three simple statements to help others be more open to exploring different points of view. It is very useful in conflict resolution, as well as in sales and negotiation conversations by redirecting a person’s point of view rather than attempting to change it. It allows you to be sincere and work toward a win-win solution that everyone feels comfortable with.
The concept behind the agreement frame is that each of us processes information differently, and we have our own unique lens through which we see the world. We are constantly filtering, generalizing and distorting information — based on our unconscious beliefs, core values and memories — to create our model of reality. In other words, your perception of what is true or right may be different than other people’s perceptions. This means that your opinion on an issue is not necessarily right, and neither is the opinion of others. Yet, we all believe that our solution is the best because we’ve repeated those thoughts over and over in our own mind until we believe that we are correct. If someone questions our perspective and imposes their opinion on us, we tend to resist that information and react accordingly.
I invite you to reflect on past experiences when you shared an opinion or a solution to a problem and someone told you that you were wrong. How did you respond?
Chances are that you were triggered into a negative state. Perhaps you became defensive and had a hard time listening to what the other person had to say, or perhaps you shut down and resented the fact that they corrected you. This form of communication can create conflict in the relationship.
The agreement frame provides a simple way of communicating that allows you to get your opinion or a solution across more easily. It helps release the other person’s resistance to your perspective by genuinely validating their ideas or values, while at the same time offering them a new option to consider. Without resistance, there is no conflict, and everyone involved can feel congruent with the change.
Here are the three phrases of the agreement frame:
• “I respect… and…”
• “I appreciate… and…”
• “I agree… and…”
When you respond to different perspectives using one of the three phrases in the agreement frame, you are able to build rapport and get in sync with others by acknowledging their perspective, rather than ignoring or negating it with words like “but” or “however.” You get to redirect the conversation toward your point of view while validating the other person’s model of the world. This can lead to greater connection, a more coherent environment, and greater access to innovative solutions.
The important thing when using these statements is that you maintain the intention of reaching a mutually beneficial agreement. You must be sincere or else the other person’s subconscious mind may pick up on that incoherence and will reject your suggestions.
Notice that these phrases do not include “I understand.” This is because others might argue that you do not truly “understand.” However, they cannot easily reject that you do not respect, appreciate, or agree with them.
Be sure to only use “I agree” when you genuinely agree with something that the other person said and you want to invite them to explore an additional point of view. For instance, you might say, “I agree with you, and I believe that…” or “I agree that from your point of view this makes the most sense, and I invite you to consider that…”
Similarly, you would use the phrase “I respect” if you respect something that the other person has said or done. For example, you might say, “I respect your concerns, and you may want to be aware that…” or “I respect that you’ve invested a lot of time and effort on this project, and I wonder if you would be open to…”
The phrase “I appreciate” can be used when you cannot find something to agree with or even respect in the other person’s point of view. In this case, you can acknowledge that they have a different model of reality. You might say, “I appreciate that you’re saying this because you sincerely care, and what’s most important here is that we…” or “I appreciate that you are confident about this, and my experience with this issue has been different…”
Here’s the bottom line: To communicate effectively and get what you want, the people you communicate with must be open to what you have to say. The agreement frame empowers you to honor your own values and beliefs while honoring other people’s models of reality.
I invite you to use this tool any time you’d like to get your message across even more easily and effortlessly.
And, feel free to reach out directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or if you’d like to learn more about our transformational leadership training and coaching programs.