I am studying Clean Language at the moment and am reading an excellent book by Wendy Sullivan and Judy Rees (who runs XrayListening.com which is about how Clean Language can be used in business) called Clean Language: Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds which introduces the concept and teaches the basics of how Clean Language can and should be applied.
I’m finding the whole thing incredibly powerful and I suspect I’ll be blogging about it again.
Coming from the NLP world with the meta model and such, Clean Language seems to simplify the processes even further and what I’ve seen and used is actually a much better method of questioning someone on their beliefs and frames than the Meta Model used in NLP [gasp!].
If you’ve not read it or don’t have time/intend to, then checkout the next two questions and, just as an experiment, use them in a few conversations with friends or colleagues and see what happens:
- What kind of X (is that X)?
- Is there anything else about X?
They are incredibly simple but a fantastic way of encouraging the speaker to elaborate and explain further what they mean.
The “X” represents the EXACT same words the person spoke repeated in the EXACTLY the same way with intonation, inflection, power etc.
The bit in brackets is optional and will apply in some contexts and not in others. I would trust your unconscious to provide you with it at the right time.
Take for example:
“I love Aston Villa” (I don’t btw, I’m just using it as an example)
“What kind of ‘love’?“
The person will likely explain what they mean by “love”.
What is cool is that you can then use the same question again and again as they explain why they feel the way they do about their chosen team. Who knows: you might even discover a secret Spurs fan! (I’m not one of those either).
Lets have another example conversation:
“I’m really stressed!“
“What kind of ‘stressed’?“
“I can’t sleep properly and my eating is a mess!“
“And is there anything else about ‘stressed’?“
“Yeah, my boss keeps piling stuff onto me and I feel like I’m drowning in it!“
This initial conversation has elicited the speaker’s symptoms and perceived cause as well as their metaphor for representing how they feel about the situation. Using further clean language questioning you can properly explore all of those and allow the speaker to discover for themselves the solution to the problem even though they may not at first have been able to see (or swim for) a way out of it.
Have a listen to conversations around you and even your own words and listen out for the metaphors that we all use constantly. It is fascinating to do this because we all make assumptions about what “drowning in it” might be like, but you can pretty much guarantee that your image of that scenario will be quite different from mine. That’s where clean questioning can enable all parties in a conversation to understand each other’s metaphors and avoid making potentially incorrect assumptions about what the other person is saying.
If you are interested in reading a brief overview of Clean Language, checkout Wikipedia.