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Clean Language as a Coaching Tool


Speaking at the inaugural meeting of the Hampshire Coaching Group last night, I used the metaphor of Clean Language as a ‘powerful tool’ to illustrate the upsides and downsides of using metaphors to explain things. This metaphor is often used of Clean Language and since coaching draws from many different disciplines, it’s an obvious one for coaches - who tend to collect new tools as they develop themselves, gathering different skills from different disciplines and being able to choose the right one for the situation.

However, while ‘toolkit’ really helps to explain this idea, it also has some negative connotations. For example, if coaches are the ones with the tools it implies that they have the power rather than empowering clients. Of course, all metaphors reveal and hide information… they all have an ‘upside’ and a ‘downside’.

If we are to think about Clean Language as a tool, then one of the things it is useful for is helping clients to realise which metaphors they are using naturally as they speak, and the implications of those metaphors.

After more explanation, everyone in the group had a chance to have a go at asking and being asked some Clean Language questions…

  • What would you like to have happen?
  • Then what happens?
  • Is there anything else about ... ?
  • What kind of ... is that?
  • Whereabouts is ... ?
  • What needs to happen for ... to happen?

There was a very positive feel in the room at the end of the exercise, with group members commenting:

As coach:

  • It was refreshing. There was no room for my ego.
  • It made me listen and I realised I don’t always listen well.
  • It was direct (from both client and coach perspective).
  • It trains your memory.
  • I was interested to note the client’s transderivational searches.
  • It stopped me analysing and enabled me to shine a torch on what was going on.

As client:

  • I experienced a light bulb moment.
  • I thought it would be repetitive, but I was too busy focusing on my own experience to notice.
  • It allowed creative thought.
  • I am excited!

About Marian Way

Marian Way's avatar

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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