Building Trust With Clean Language

Within organisations and around the business world, one of the most useful ways to use Clean Language is to build trust – including amongst people who feel different from each other. That difference might be described as a cultural gap, or in language like “them and us” or “silos”. But more often the challenge isn’t even named: there’s just a general discomfort. How might Clean Language help?

The thing is, people use a kind of “predictive text” to understand each other. Whatever we don’t know for certain, we fill in with guesses, using heuristics built up from our own knowledge and experience.

Sometimes these guesses are reasonably reliable because they’re built from human universals such as the need for food, water, warmth and shelter. But when we’re dealing with more subtle aspects of life such as those encountered during work collaborations; or with people who seem very different from ourselves and others we know well, our heuristics break down.

That’s when we need to ask more questions t find out about what’s really going on for the other person. And non-judgmental questions like the Clean Language Questions, which aim to minimise the introduction of the questioner’s presuppositions and metaphors, can be especially useful.

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