How are you using your Clean Language skills?

Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

One of our students, Sharon Goldie, joined our Clean Language: Core Skills training for a second time after a three-year gap - and we wondered what she had been up to in between – how had she been using her Clean Language skills?

Sharon, a teacher, trainer and dyslexia assessor, became interested in Clean Language she was looking for strategies and interventions to help her clients who were struggling with low self-esteem and depression. She investigated and trained in Mindfulness and NLP and then came across Caitlin’s TEDx talkShe says:

That was the light bulb moment for me.In NLP I’d learned that the individual has all the resources within them. And this was how to access those resources. I was intrigued when Caitlin explained that with 4 questions the children she worked with took responsibility for their own learning.


Sharon joined a clean practice session with Sue Knight and – with only two clean questions (What kind of …? Is there anything else about…?) – she experienced ‘a free flow of informationAnd that is when she attended Core Skills for the first time.

She began using Clean Language in her work at a university in Birmingham where she was working one-to-one with students. She started by changing her opening question from “What do you want to work on in this session?’ to “And what would you like to have happen in this session?”

She says:

"This question gave some students the space they needed to empty their emotional bin’ – and it seemed important for that to happen before we could get on with the academic stuff. One response from a student wasWell Sharon I want to tell you why I spent Friday night in A & E.” Another student repliedI don’t know.” I paused and said, I know you don’t know, and if you did know what might it be?” By using this NLP softener it all came out."


Sharon started dabbling further, using more clean questions and noticing they were really freeing the students up:

"Another of my undergraduate students said he wanted to achieve a 2:1. We had a conversation and I advised him that although he would definitely achieve a 2:2, a 2:1 would not happen unless he were to develop critical analysis in his work. So we used Clean Language to analyse one paragraph. I read one sentence out loud and asked, “And is there anything else about x?” And he volunteered more information. I did this 3 times, and each time there was more informationHowever, the fourth time I asked, “Is there anything else?” he said, “Stop f...ing asking me if there is anything else!” To which I responded“ I will stop asking you until either you give the same answer twice or until you say, ‘No’.” I went onto reflect with him that I had asked him three times, and each time he had come up with an additional piece of informationHe broke into a smile and apologised and we agreed he would use this process for his own self-checking in terms of whether he could drill down any more for a fuller answerHe got his 2:1. Ireally does free up thinking."


On another occasion, whilst on a school visit, Sharon was within earshot of the Deputy Headteacher who, during an assessment, asked a child“Are the letters moving around?” Sharon noticed that the child looked quite perplexed.

"During the break shared with the Deputy Head my new skill of using Clean Language within the assessment process. I shared with her how I ask an initial question, “When you’re reading, that’s like what?” to gain insight into a child’s relationship/feelings with reading and how this enables them to explain themselves with more freedom."


Sharon also noticed all the different kinds of responses children would have to this question and how some would simply gesticulate with their hands

"One child put her hands out in front of her and moved them from outside in a waving action. As an assessor I wondered whether there some visual disturbance was occurring. Another child put her hands out in front and then brought her fingers together in a popping motion. I thought she might be experiencing ‘veining’ where the white between the letters show up more strongly than the black font. I knew to investigate it further and to do so cleanly. The non-verbal clues were as important, if not more so than the verbal clues they were giving me."


Sharon introduced clean questions into all her courses and into private coaching sessions with teachers, who in turn would often ask her to work some of their children.

Although Sharon is in the process of stepping down from all her various roles, she is still working with one student who is completing her PhD.  Clean Language sessions have been helpful in giving her clarity and motivation and Sharon has also used Clean Space, based on what she’s read in Marian and James’s book. Sharon received this feedback from her student:

It felt innocuous at first and then I got upset, and then I got upset when I revisited the spaces. It put me I touch with my upset and highlighted my fear. Once I named the fear it took away the fear. My head is often full of emotional crap and there is no room to do academic thinking. This was really useful in moving me forward.”


Sharon joined Core Skills for a second time to deepen her knowledge and improve her skills. She achieved such a lot with Clean Language in three years; it will be interesting to see what happens next.

How long have you been using Clean Language? How do you use it? Use the comments box below to share your stories.

Tags: clean language, clean questions, caitlin walker, james lawley, marian way, clean space, dyslexia

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About the author

Cheryl Winter

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A fellow of the CIPD, NLP Master Practitioner and ILM certified coach, Cheryl delivers high quality coaching, supervision and training in all sectors. She is a specialist in neuro -diversity in the work-place, ILM quality assurance and coaching.

How are you using your Clean Language skills?

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