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How We Explored Three Topics at Once

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Practice Group Report

We started by exploring our group metaphor (What kind of group do you want to belong to?) again and newcomers since its last outing added some ideas of their own, including: stepping out and back in again and a glass elevator. TV programmes ‘The Lost Jaguar’ and ‘Pacific Abyss’ put in an appearance, too.

As with previous meetings, we started with the question “What would you like to have happen?” and posted some ideas onto the flipchart. These were:

  • Explore the thought process behind our choice of words to ask questions about
  • How to lead into clean from an ordinary conversation
  • How to use Clean Language conversationally, in everyday situations
  • Working with different - non-verbal - media, such as plasticine or drawings
  • Using our new “Clean Language Question Generator” forms

We then voted for our ‘top two’ and it was a fairly even split between all five ideas… And we recognised that we could explore three of these simultaneously, by:

  • Using one of the middle three items as content (Keith volunteered his content about using clean in everyday conversations)
  • Having a go with the new forms to generate questions
  • Stopping as we went along to explore our thought processes: what was determining our choice of questions?

This is what we did:

We ask Keith “What would you like to have happen?” and each of us wrote his reply (or as much of it as we could get down) on a Clean Language Question Generator form, and then created a question. We then read the questions and asked Keith which one he’d like to answer. This one was asked again, he then answered, we wrote questions, he chose one… and so on. In between we discussed our thinking. (Each time, several people would choose exactly the same word + question combination, so Keith’s choices were not as overwhelming as they could have been.)

What we talked about in between questions:

  • How it can be difficult to get down all of a person’s word… and we all agreed that the only way to get better is to practise, so that means getting down what you can and asking a question about that - and doing that many, many times until it becomes easier. (Of course, writing a person’s words is not a necessary part of the Clean Language process - although as using a person’s exact words is, it is definitely a good way to ensure you get that right!)
  • Similarly, in deciding what to ask about, experience plays a part. Asking questions of words and phrases that are more metaphorical is a basic way of deciding, and keeping the client’s outcome in mind is, of course, crucial.
  • There is no right or wrong question.
  • How useful the CLQG was in helping us to remember and keep to the three-part-syntax.

After this activity, we did give Keith some hints on how to make Clean Language more conversational, and we discussed the other topics from our original list. The discussion included a nice idea from Maggie: Write down what the person says, and then ‘check’ with them that you’ve got it down right (i.e. repeat their words), before asking your question in a conversational tone. We talked about the features that mean that Clean is not really conversational but is about helping someone to have an experience of their own inner world - features such as not using the person’s name, dropping words out of a sentence so it’s not grammatically correct, the three-part syntax etc - and how it can become conversational if you ignore these conventions and just keep to the basic idea of using a person’s words and asking clean or clean-ish questions.

We also heard how Joy has been helping children to stop having nightmares by using plasticine and drawings combined with Clean Language questions - and with great results.

All this, and we still had time for some straightforward Clean Language practice in pairs, which we all enjoyed, too.

Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash


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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