Aspects of Experience: What Do You ‘Go For’?

Practice Group Report

When you're working with someone using Clean Language, how do you decide which aspect of their experience you will get them to pay attention to?

That was the question at the heart of last night's Practice Group meeting...

We started the evening by reviewing our 'Melting Pot' metaphor from last month and inviting our two newcomers, Andy and Helen, to say what they want to get from belonging to the group. They want:

  • "To have experiences - I will be in the pot."
  • "To re-learn Clean Language. I learned it ten years ago and haven't had many opportunities to practice."

We then moved onto the theme of the evening - how DO you know what to 'go for'? We framed the discussion by acknowledging that the client may well get useful information from being invited to pay attention to ANY aspect of their experience. Then we listed the ideas that came immediately to mind:

  • The last thing the client says. This is often a good idea when the client gives a lot of information in response to one question, which may happen more often at the start of a session.
  • Words the client marks out in some way - e.g. through their voice tone or pace, by gesturing or by meta-commenting.
  • When people repeat themselves. This may well indicate that a word or phrase is significant for them.
  • Logic / Modelling. We agreed that when modelling the logic of the client's information, it is the underlying logic that lets you know where to go next in the client's metaphor landscape.
  • Metaphors. Although this was 'stating the obvious' we thought it was good to include it in our initial list.

Once we'd discussed these 'top of mind' ideas, we then worked with three 'clients' to find out more, based on experience. Each client was asked "What would you like to have happen?" and then group members took turns to ask three of four questions. After each client's landscape had been developed, we discussed what had happened, what was guiding our choice of 'aspect to go for' and whether the client felt that the questions were useful. Based on these discussions, we added the following ideas to our list:

  • Go where the client doesn't want to go. It maybe that there is valuable information for the client there, although the clients in our 'experiments' said they didn't find these questions useful.
  • Where there is likely to be useful information for the CLIENT (i.e. rather than the facilitator). We acknowledged that this is the most important principle.
  • Develop the outcome, rather than the problem or remedy. It's important to start a session by helping the client to develop an 'all singing, all dancing' metaphor for their outcome. We also talked about making sure that all our questions are asked in relation to the client's outcome, so this is another really important principle.
  • When the client 'goes live', model what is happening in the moment. For example, one of our clients commented that he was 'lost in his own thing' - and this was clearly an example of him 'doing' a behaviour he wanted to do more often. When this happens, the client gets really useful information when the facilitator stays with that and ask questions of what is happening.
  • When something different happens. Another important principle - if a change occurs in the client's metaphor landscape, that's will be the most useful aspect for them to pay attention to.

The discussion could have gone on and on, but sadly we ran out of time. It was a good meeting - that had all the ingredients of a great 'melting pot'. I'm looking forward to the next one (August 13th).

Tags: practice group, clean language

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About the author

Marian Way

Company Director & Trainer, Portchester, Fareham
A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be... #DramaFree. Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She's trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.

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