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Metaphor Maps


Practice Group Report

Our main activity for this month’s Practice Group revolved around ‘metaphor maps’.

Working in threes, with a facilitator, client and observer in each group, the facilitator used Clean Language to help the client model “When I’m _________ at my best, that’s like what?” The _________ could be ‘learning’, ‘working’, ‘coaching’, ‘parenting’, ‘cycling’... whatever the client chose. After 20 minutes, the client was asked to draw a ‘metaphor map’ to represent their model, and the facilitator and observer also had a go at drawing a map of the client’s model. The three pictures were then compared, allowing the facilitator and observer to see how closely they had managed to model what was going on from the client’s viewpoint.

In some cases, the similarities between the three maps was remarkable. In other cases it was less obvious, but in most cases some resemblance could be seen. In some groups, there was time for more facilitation after the maps had been drawn and it became clear how useful it was for both client and facilitator to have the drawing. Additional information often became available through this medium, which could then be developed through further questioning. Some group members said they would use this idea and ask clients to draw their maps part way through a session.

Other observations included:

  • It was quite fun
  • Having an intention to draw (as the facilitator) helps you focus on getting and developing metaphors (rather than conceptual content)
  • It helps you see what assumptions you are making
  • The way people draw is part of the modelling process

It is important to point out that this was a practice group activity: in a regular client session, if the facilitator were to draw a map of any kind, they would not show this to the client, as this would not be clean.

Thank you to everyone who came along for your participation, your contributions and insights.

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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