Why Should A Judge Be Curious About Clean Language?

Why should a judge be curious about Clean Language? I was asked this question recently and I thought I’d share my response. What else should I have included? Please comment below.
Clean Language is a specialist inquiry technique which has some fairly unusual features.
  • It provides a system for minimising presuppositions and content impositions from the questioner. In the context of academic research interviewing, the Clean approach has a validated protocol which is unmatched by any other approach. More on this at https://www.slideshare.net/jdlawley/lawley-unitec-clean-interviewing.
  • This has obvious value in any legal context. Clean has been used by at least one UK police force for interviewing vulnerable witnesses.
  • One of the side-effects of using this Clean approach is that the person being questioned typically feels profoundly understood, which in turn encourages them to share more about how they really think and feel. Step by step, they can be supported to explore their “unknown knowns” – the things they don’t know that they know.
  • This has produced some remarkable results – for example, teams working Cleanly with teenagers Not in Education, Employment or Training in the Liverpool area are reporting an astonishing success rate.
  • While Clean is not generally very useful in a completely “hostile” interview (eg police interviewing a guilty gangster), there are many anecdotal examples of the use of Clean Language in mediation, where it helps warring parties to understand each other’s positions and to find common ground. Martin Snodden is an expert here.
  • Recently, a member of a nursing disciplinary tribunal reported that using Clean Language in discussions between panel members had helped them to reach clearly-articulated decisions more quickly and easily than previously.
  • Clean Language is also unusual in the way it works with the metaphors that underpin people’s thinking and drive their behaviour. But that’s not so obviously relevant to the judicial context.
I hope that’s useful and sparks your curiosity. What else would you like to know?

1 Comment

  • curious peter

    05/03/2017

    Hi Judy
    Great little article. ta.
    I love the expression ‘unknow knowns’ and that’s something I hint at when I work wth designers who sense that their solution is floating in their perceptual space somewhere but there is an obstacle. My experience thus far is that the obstacle is just a dark area or an unfamiliar shape that needs to be explored …. Do you know of anyone who works with designers – architects, engineers, artists etc ?
    If so I’d like to connect with them.

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