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Framing Problems in Crisis Negotiation: Reframing in the Case of Waco
Unformatted Document Text:  Reframing in the Waco Negotiations 10 that reflect the problems or manage them? (3) What are the normative beliefs that participants in their different roles have about what counts as good conduct? In this study, I focus on the second and third. I work to describe the conversational practices that were routine in these exchanges between an FBI negotiator and Koresh. Reframing and Reframing Practices I specifically address reframing as a framing problem for the negotiators because Koresh (and any of his followers who also spoke on the phone) consistently responded to the negotiators with some religious or biblical reference. Simply put, they persistently changed the subject to a religious topic – or shifted frames. The core of the notion of reframing is that, as Goffman (1974) contends, conversation is only loosely tied to the frame that surrounds it. This implies that talk is easily subject to other, alternative frames. Popularized by Watzlawick, Weakland, and Fisch (1974), reframing is to change the “conceptual and/or emotional setting or viewpoint” (p. 95) of a situation, creating a new frame that fits the situation’s same concrete details in an equally well or better way. More simply put, reframing is ascribing a new frame that changes likely interpretations of what is going on. Reframing is widely described as a technique in counseling and therapy. The goal is to remove conceptual and perceptual blinders to alternative interpretations of human behaviors (Coyne, 1985; Gale, & Brown-Standridge, 1988). The technique has been appropriated in couples therapy (Hecker & Trepper, 2000), dispute mediation (Bodker & Jamison, 1997), family therapy (Davies, 1988; Jones, 1986), group therapy (Clark, 1988), and school counseling (Soo- Hoo, 1998). It has also been used specifically to help overcome everyday problems (Krpan &

Authors: Agne, Robert.
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Reframing in the Waco Negotiations 10
that reflect the problems or manage them? (3) What are the normative beliefs that participants in
their different roles have about what counts as good conduct? In this study, I focus on the
second and third. I work to describe the conversational practices that were routine in these
exchanges between an FBI negotiator and Koresh.
Reframing and Reframing Practices
I specifically address reframing as a framing problem for the negotiators because Koresh
(and any of his followers who also spoke on the phone) consistently responded to the negotiators
with some religious or biblical reference. Simply put, they persistently changed the subject to a
religious topic – or shifted frames.
The core of the notion of reframing is that, as Goffman (1974) contends, conversation is
only loosely tied to the frame that surrounds it. This implies that talk is easily subject to other,
alternative frames. Popularized by Watzlawick, Weakland, and Fisch (1974), reframing is to
change the “conceptual and/or emotional setting or viewpoint” (p. 95) of a situation, creating a
new frame that fits the situation’s same concrete details in an equally well or better way. More
simply put, reframing is ascribing a new frame that changes likely interpretations of what is
going on.
Reframing is widely described as a technique in counseling and therapy. The goal is to
remove conceptual and perceptual blinders to alternative interpretations of human behaviors
(Coyne, 1985; Gale, & Brown-Standridge, 1988). The technique has been appropriated in
couples therapy (Hecker & Trepper, 2000), dispute mediation (Bodker & Jamison, 1997), family
therapy (Davies, 1988; Jones, 1986), group therapy (Clark, 1988), and school counseling (Soo-
Hoo, 1998). It has also been used specifically to help overcome everyday problems (Krpan &


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