Question: “One of my greatest challenges has been to “parrot-phrase.” I find myself struggling to either write down or remember the client’s exact words, despite knowing how important this is. Would you be willing to provide me with three of your best ideas for how to manage this?” Anna Rabe, Health and Wellness Coach, San Diego, California
Answer: Worrying about remembering a client’s exact words is a common issue for Clean Language learners, especially those working in a relatively formal setting such as coaching. In less formal settings, my impression is that people worry less – and perhaps remember more as a result.
My biggest tip is to slow down. Most clients love that you take their words seriously, and will happily wait while you make a note.
In particular, always write down the specific thing you/they intend to focus on in the session. Then, wherever else the conversation may go, you can always return to their exact words to refocus things.
Another thing is to parrot only occasional “label” or “handle” words, rather than whole sentences. For example, if my client had said, “I find myself struggling to either write down or remember the client’s exact words, despite knowing how important this is,” I might just repeat back, “struggling to remember” or even just “struggling”.
Using “handles” makes the whole thing much easier. In particular, it can help you to direct the client’s attention in specific ways to specific aspects of what they’ve said: that “precision questioning” thing.
For example, let’s say that we’ve had a whole chunk of conversation since you said, “I find myself struggling to either write down or remember the client’s exact words, despite knowing how important this is.” I repeated back, “struggling”, and asked a question about “struggling”. Since then, we’ve discussed topics A, B, C, and D.
I can then refocus your attention on on “struggling” like this: “And D. And D, and C, and B, and A. And “struggling”. And when struggling like that, what would you like to have happen?”
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