Is Clean Language NLP In Disguise?

Is Clean Language “NLP in disguise”, as one (trolling) correspondent claimed recently?

“No” is the short answer. There are significant differences, I think.

sheepOf course, there are similarities. As I mentioned last week, the world of Clean Language is building a significant body of academic research to support it. So is NLP.

Both can be used as effective changework processes, and both started in the world of psychotherapy.

Both can also be highly manipulative.

Both Clean Language and NLP work with metaphor. I touched on this in discussing the relationship between Tony Robbins and Clean Language a while back.

They both involve directing attention with questions. NLP’s Meta Model and Clean Language can look similar, although to the client they will often feel very different.

Clean Language has NLP in its DNA – David Grove had studied NLP before he created Clean Language. Much later his work was rediscovered, modelled, and brought back into the NLP fold by Penny Tompkins and James Lawley.

Lots of practitioners combine Clean Language with NLP, knowingly or unknowingly.

So, what are the differences? The most significant, I think, have to do with influence.

  • Clean Language was designed (unsuccessfully) to reduce the facilitator’s influence, while NLP is often sold on its capacity to increase a person’s influence.
  • In Clean Language, everything possible is done to increase the client’s sense of agency in any change process. In NLP, it’s often the practitioner’s role to pretend to have the power.
  • Consequently, NLP tends to fit with top-down hierarchical world views. Clean Language fits with self-organisation, emergence, bottom-up processes, and facilitation.
  • My sense is that the NLP world tends to attract people who hold “machine” (often “computer”) metaphors for the way people tick: hence, NLPer tend to believe that “control” is important and/or possible. Clean Languagers tend to prefer metaphors involving organic growth and exploration, and are typically not very interested in control.

There are also a lot of differences to do with the way the two approaches look at metaphor. But as this post is already too long, I’ll leave those for another day.

What do you think? Am I on the wrong track? Please comment below.

2 thoughts on “Is Clean Language NLP In Disguise?”

  1. That’s nice and succinct. The overt focus on rapport with the persons metaphors in Clean, rather than rapport with the person in NLP, might be another distinction worthy of attention

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