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Modelling Tension


Practice Group Report

This month’s Practice Group meeting featured a choice of two activities: Modelling Tension (or whatever the person’s word for that happened to be) and Guess the Picture in which we used clean questions to elect details about pictures, aiming for a close match.

There was a choice of two activities:

1. Modelling Tension

This topic came about because several people have said that they sometimes experience a tension when using Clean Language. There is the usual challenge of keeping one’s assumptions and ideas to oneself, but this is more than that. This is about the tension between what you want or need and what your ‘client’ wants/needs. For example, some coaches feel that they have to deliver results within a certain timeframe and know that with Clean, although results may well come more quickly than usual, there is no guarantee. Or perhaps a manager wants to hear about an employee’s desired outcome but is concerned that it may conflict with what he or she wants to have happen.

So the task was to model these kinds of tension (or whatever the person’s word for that was) and to facilitate them to consider what they would like to have happen.

  • One person described it as an awareness:

    “The awareness kicks in when I am coaching a client, and I think ‘Now would be a good time to introduce Clean… How can I do that?”

    When this point in time was modelled, several ‘parts’ were present: resources; an observer; a bridge; gut instinct; and hands holding a Christmas Tree representing the client’s ‘stuff’. There was also a wind signalling which way to go. This awareness was not a problem, and being more aware of the awareness was useful.

  • Another person spoke about a hazy fog in her brain, and what she wanted was to be almost invisible so it would be like the client was seeing themselves in a soft mirror, the shape of the client.
  • Another tension related to the desire to listen and create space for a client, a relaxed environment, and being aware of filling that space. When this person then took the facilitator role, they found they were more able to create the space, although have some way to go in terms of not filling it.
  • A work-related tension that one person is experiencing relates to reconciling and aligning two maps. There’s a gap between them and the need for a bridge. The alignment is happening, and this person was looking for ways to speed it up.

2. Guess the Picture

In this activity, those in the ‘client’ role were given a picture to describe, and those facilitating asked Clean Questions to find out about the detail of the picture without seeing it, including where things were in relation to one another. Their aim was to be able to draw a reasonably accurate copy of the picture.

The main feedback from this activity was how easy it was to make assumptions at an early stage. For example, one client described a bridge with houses on it, and the facilitator immediately thought of Venice. She then recognised that she had no evidence for this thinking and that she needed to ask further questions. Another started to draw, and found they didn’t have enough information, so had to ask more questions. So all of this was good practice for modelling clients’ metaphor landscapes.

Another found,

“It was a good discipline for not leaping to conclusions. By asking about detail and spatial positioning it was possible to replicate the picture with a high degree of accuracy.”

Others found the activity quite restrictive and frustrating, wanting to move away from talking about the content of the picture to how they felt about it. Of course this was another example of ‘tension’, although in this case, the tension was between the outcome of the activity (to be able to draw a picture) and the facilitator’s own interest.

Most people had finished their activity by the time we broke for a cup of tea or coffee, so after the break we debriefed (as above) and then used the remaining time to consider what people would like to have happen - during the meeting and in future meetings.

Ideas we discussed during the meeting:

  • Working cleanly with family members. Several group members said they had tried this with great success - and that it works well providing that the family member wants to be asked some clean questions.
  • Self-facilitation. In this case, the best advice is to write the answers (and maybe the questions as well) to the questions. This keeps you focussed on what you are doing. Of course, it’s also important to have a context - some reason for asking the questions. You can start by asking “What would you like to have happen?”
  • Whether it is possible to use Clean Language covertly, e.g. when complaining or being on the receiving end of a complaint. While we generally suggest that you ask someone’s permission to ask them these questions (because of the powerful effect they can have and because this way of working is unusual and making people wary is not part of the intention on Clean Language), there may be situations where you can ask one or two clean questions or where you can start out by paraphrasing, and gradually move towards Clean questions. Click here to read a blog post on this subject.

Ideas for future meetings:

  • Practice Clean Set Up, From Feeling to Metaphor, Developing a Resource
  • Think about business applications of Clean Language
  • Another go at using the Value Cards that we used at last month’s meeting
  • Using Clean to Work with Groups

Photo by James Allen 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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