What’s the best way to build a Clean Language habit? How can you make it part of your everyday work – in the easiest possible way?
When people first encounter this precision inquiry toolkit, they get very excited.
They realise that Clean Language can help them to gain clarity, quickly, including about the things people don’t know that they know; to shift emotional states; to motivate people to change; to give and get good feedback and to enhance relationships in the process. All from a handful of simple questions and a shift of mindset. What’s not to like?
But for some people, that’s where it stops. What they’ve learned doesn’t translate into real-world action.
Richard Atherton emailed the other day with just this challenge. “Is there a post about how to remember to use it, in the field?” he asked. “Not yet!” was my answer.
The trick to remembering to do anything is to make it such a habit that you can’t not do it.
So, how an we apply the science of habit-forming to using Clean Language in the field?
First up, it’s probably worth asking yourself that powerful Clean Language question, “What would you like to have happen?” It’s a whole lot easier to keep going when you know where you’re heading. You might even ask yourself, “When all of that happens, that will be like… what?” The more clarity you have about your goal – in conceptual language or in metaphor – the easier it’ll be to get there. There’s more about all that here.
Then it’s time to apply James Clear’s 5-step approach.
1. Start with an incredibly small habit. How about asking one of the two Lazy Jedi questions today? It’s super easy to ask, “What kind of X?” about something a colleague says to you. You can even do it on email or text chat.
2. Increase your habit in very small ways. Next step might be to ask two Lazy Jedi questions during the day. Or both questions. You don’t need to be using all of the core Clean Language questions to be making a difference. It’s not the questions, but the act of listening with respectful curiosity that makes the biggest difference.
3. As you build up, break habits into chunks. My online course Clean Language Essentials For Coaches offers a simple system for doing this. One piece at a time. Add Clean Language to your existing toolkit. Notice what happens. Then take the next step.
4. When you slip, get back on track quickly. Notice what just happened. Then ask yourself the Clean Language question, “When that’s what’s happened, what would I like to have happen?” Asking yourself (and others!) that question regularly is a Clean language habit it’s well worth developing.
5. Be patient. Stick to a pace you can sustain. Long-lasting change often takes time. It can help to keep your sights on where you’re heading.
It’s not one of James’s steps, but it is implied in his system: make sure you track your progress, and notice how things change. Occasionally look back and see how far you’ve come.
And then, let me (and others) know how it’s going! Check in with your fellow learners online. Share your successes and challenges. Everyone needs an occasional boost: your story might just make the difference that makes the difference for someone else.
- Members of my Metaphor Mastery programme routinely share their success stories – and challenges – in a private Facebook group. If that might be useful for you, check out a time-limited special offer here.
- What’s your favourite way to build a Clean Language habit? Please comment below.