what is clean language
Sheryl Andrews
Sheryl Andrews

The Listening Detective

What is Clean Language?

Clean Language is a questioning technique designed by David Grove in the 1980’s, who gave it a way on a generosity framework. As a psychotherapist he recognised when looking at many transcribes that the way a question was constructed influenced the ability of any given patient to answer. The ability to answer then influenced the patient’s ability to develop solutions and understanding.

With this in mind David cleaned up the questions, stripping them of any leading and where ever possible reduced the assumption. Let me put this in context for you.

When I ask the question what do you need to do to grow your business?

This question is ‘loaded’ with the assumption you have to ‘do’ something where as you might need to be more confident or have more time. This also assumes you want to grow your business.

 

So a clean way of asking the above questions would be:

And when business what would you like to have happen?

Clean Language is a framework of questions and principles that focus your attention on:

  • What you would like to have happen rather than what you don’t want to have happen
  • Resources and strengths you have already that maybe useful to achieve that outcome
  • Patterns that will give you greater clarity and understanding of ‘how’ you work and learn

The affect of asking Clean Language questions with a clean intention is that you:

  • Reduce the assumptions
  • Increase understanding

Clean Language questions and intention are one of the most efficient ways to resource an individual to resource themselves.

The principles of the process assumes the individual to have all the resources they need to solve the problem.

As a Clean Language facilitator we are trained to ask questions we don’t know the answer to but we think there is a good chance the other person will. Questions that are following the logic of the client rather than that of the facilitator.

It is not like any normal conversation and is a unique space to share with another human being – honouring and respecting everything they say or do. Never giving an opinion, suggestion or feedback even when asked.

David talked about giving all information equal opportunity. Not seeing anything as good or bad, negative or positive just information.

 

David Grove went onto to develop an awareness that we often talk in metaphor approximately once every 6 words and that these metaphors could be ‘brought to life’ if developed.

When you ask Clean questions of a metaphor, as though the metaphor were real it can give the individual the opportunity to really understand complex matters that are often hard to articulate with words alone.

Have you ever found yourself saying, “I can’t find the words to describe it”

Metaphors can bridge the gap between language and hard to articulate subjects like your emotions.

Metaphors can make it easier to understand ourselves and therefore make it easier for us to make ourselves understood.

I originally trained in Clean Language because I wanted to excel as a coach. I wanted to be the best facilitator I could be, little did I know the impact that would have on both my business, my family and me personally.

I would like to thank Marian Way of  Clean Learning and author of Clean Approaches for Coaches for introducing me to this wonderful process.

Marian was trained by Penny Tompkins and James Lawley, psychotherapist themselves who followed David Grove’s work and modelled ‘how’ is was asking the questions. They then developed a system to train individuals how to ask the clean language questions, this process is called “Symbolic Modelling” and you can find out more here Clean Language

Alongside this Caitlin Walker of Training Attention also met David Grove while working with youths in central London. Although the principles are the same in terms of questions and ethos her experience of how to practically apply it was  different.

Caitlin was working in a completely different arena and therefore had to adapt the way the questions were introduced and asked. Caitlin over 10 years has developed a way of working with groups using Clean Language questions and principles and this process is called ‘Systemic Modelling’.  You can find out more about Caitlin’s journey here and her book from Contempt to Curiosity.

At Step by Step Listening we now work with businesses, families and individuals who want to develop their own bespoke strategies to speak up and be heard without fear of upsetting others.

Sheryl – The Strength and Solution Detective
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About The Author

Sheryl Andrews (aka The Listening Detective)

Founder of Step by Step Listening, Sheryl Andrews has always been keen to create space where other people felt safe to speak their truth no matter what that was. She is well known for her ability to motivate, manage and mentor others through change and loves nothing more than helping others feel heard and understood. She soon discovered there were 8 different kinds of listening and often people started talking without knowing which they needed. At Step by Step Listening they create space to explore what kind of listening works to ensure individuals are resourced to work, learn and live at their best with others and on their own. .

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