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Disrupt-Then-Reframe (DTR)


Techniques General Persuasion > Sequential Requests > Disrupt-Then-Reframe (DTR)

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Make a statement that goes off the normal track of how the other person thinks. Then make a rational-sounding statement that makes apparent sense and leads the other person to agree to your request.

This is typically done in a single speech, effectively disrupting and reframing your own statements.

The principle can also be used in disrupting the other person, breaking into their speech and reinterpret what they are saying to indicate something else. This is best done when they are in the middle of talking and are in a state of 'flow', effectively trotting out a familiar script on the subject.

The disruption can even be something nonsensical -- the key is that it breaks a pattern and readies them for something else.


Davis and Knowles told customers that a package of eight cards sold for $3.00, and subsequently made sales to approximately 40% of customers. When they told customers that "the price of eight cards is 300 pennies, which is a bargain", then sales doubled to 80% of customers.

Them: You know I hate it when you...
You: Marakanas!...I hate it when we don't get on. So let's try again?


Davis and Knowles based this approach on a study of hypnotist Milton Erikson's methods whereby he would deliberately disrupt thinking and behaving and hence destabilize his patients' habitual patterns and then change that thinking whilst the patient was still unsure what to think next.

This method uses the principle of confusion to unfreeze the person and then uses reframing in a hurt and rescue route to closure.

In their 'pennies' example, the use of '300 pennies' is a disruption of the normal '3 dollars'. Whilst the person is trying to figure out what this means, the reframe 'which is a bargain' is slipped in as an explanation, which many people accept and hence conclude that it is worth purchasing before they decide that 300 pennies is really $3, which is not worth paying.

Rather than use standard persuasive pressure, as in traditional one-off selling, it acts more subtly to create alternative forms of tension that are literally doubly (as in Davis and Knowles' experiment) as effective. The aim is thus to reduce avoidance rather than focus first on increasing attractiveness.

The persuader thus becomes a trusted supporter rather than an oppositional enforcer, which supports future persuasion as in relationship selling or collaborative negotiation.

Fennis, Das and Pruyn extended this principle to show that this disruption and reframing approach was applicable across a wider range of settings. Specifically, the Disrupt-Then-Reframe technique reduced the extent of objections and counter-argument to a sales script and boosted the impact of questioning and alignment methods.

The technique is often abbreviated simply to DTR, and can be used to describe a range of techniques that use the same basic disrupt-reframe principle.

See also

Pique Technique, Reframing

Hurt and Rescue principle, Confusion principle


Davis, B.P. and Knowles, E.S. (1999). A disrupt-then-reframe technique of social influence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 2, 192-199.

Fennis, B.M., Das, E.H.H.J. and Pruyn, Th.H.  (2004). "If You Can't Dazzle Them with Brilliance, Baffle Them with Nonsense": Extending the Impact of the Disrupt-Then-Reframe Technique of Social Influence. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 14, 3, 280-290.


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