The purpose frame is a linguistic tool which we can use to satisfy the purpose of a person's request without necessarily giving them what they actually ask for.
Whilst that may sound manipulative or akin to some form of trickery, it really isn't. The purpose frame is elegantly designed to produce win-win outcomes.
The form of the purpose frame is very simple and to illustrate it we'll use two imaginary individuals - Billy and Johnny. For our purposes Johnny will be using the purpose frame to address a request made by Billy.
- Billy makes a request (X) of Johnny
- Johnny responds - (X), for what purpose?
- Billy responds - (X) for the purpose of (Y).
- Johnny offers an alternative to (X) that satisfies Johnny's purpose of (Y).
Illustrative examples don't have to be dull and boring - let's inject a little tongue-in-cheek humour:-
- The eskimo asks his boss for underfloor heating in his 'igloo-office'
- Boss replies - underfloor heating, for what purpose?
- Eskimo responds - so I can have nice warm feet!
- Boss replies - okay, I'll supply you with some extra-thick socks.
Thus the boss was able to satisfy the purpose/intention of his eskimo employee's request without actually providing exactly what was asked for.
The added bonus is that the result is a win-win - our eskimo friend has nice warm feet and the boss keeps his employee happy and avoids the cost and inconvenience of installing underfloor heating.