Asset Framing - valuing people by their aspirations

Trabian Shorter has coined the term "Asset Framing" to describe a way of thinking that starts from the premise that others have assets and aspirations rather than deficits or shortcomings. This is a powerful way to develop empathy with others, and is the opposite of a typical "Deficit Framing", or describing others by their shortcomings.

When we address someone by a challenge they have, that they are disadvantaged, minority, poor, low-income, or in some way having a shortcoming, we're deficit framing them. Asset framing starts from thinking about that person's capabilities and aspirations. By acknowledging their aspirations and assets, and framing them within that context we can find ways to better understand them. Rather than a poor, Latino from a broken home, we think about his/her talents and abilities, aspirations, and hopes for a brighter tomorrow.

When we asset frame we must acknowledge their humanity, their hopes, and their aspirations, when we deficit frame, we psychologically convert them to an other.

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Thinking Prompt
Read a news article from your local source of news. Is the author asset framing or deficit framing the subjects of the article? Consider how you might rewrite a paragraph with an asset framing mindset? How has it changed the article?

What people in your work or personal life have you been deficit framing, can you change how you think of them by asset framing them?

Here is a short (1-min) video where Trabian explains this idea in his own words:

Further Resources

On Being Podcast episode with Trabian:

Trabian Shorters – A Cognitive Skill to Magnify Humanity
The social visionary using the new science of mind, a coder’s craft, and age-old wisdom to remake the narrative landscape of our time.