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Problems, Remedies, Outcomes (2)


Practice Group Report

Having spent some time last month practising how to develop outcomes, this time we focussed on helping the client to pay attention to the structure of their problems…

We started with a warm-up activity, working in pairs to practice the full three-part syntax of Clean Language:

  • ACKNOWLEDGE what the client has said, so they know they’ve been heard. This simply means repeating the client’s words, using their voice tone and speed - prefaced with the word ‘And…’
  • DIRECT ATTENTION to the words and non verbal gestures etc the client has used to describe their experience. Focus in on one aspect of what they have said - a short phrase. Preface this with ‘And when…’
  • ASK A CLEAN LANGUAGE QUESTION of one or two words. When asking the question, slow down and use a curious, rhythmic tonality.



“I want my ideas and thoughts to flow comfortably.”


“And you want your ideas and thoughts to flow comfortably…

And when ideas flow comfortably…

What kind of ideas are those ideas? OR Then what happens?”

Next we worked as a group to facilitate two people to develop an embodied sense of a problem. The first problem arose from the warm up activity: “I keep paraphrasing the client’s words and not listening well enough.” In helping our ‘client’ to develop a metaphor for the problem, we discovered that the client herself kept straying into ‘outcome’ territory and it was quite difficult to resist her invitation to go there. We managed it for a while, but it wasn’t very long before the client was solving her problem, based on the information she’d discovered.

With our second ‘client’ we noticed that we weren’t getting to a description of a problem OR an outcome. Rather, we were helping him to reflect on some experiences he’d had over the years. This was even more difficult as we could not sense what kind of information would be useful to him, and therefore where to help him put his attention.

We concluded that working with a client’s outcome is preferable to working with a problem, as it sets the direction for the coaching - and that working with a problem is preferable to no direction at all!

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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