Why Is Clean Language Useful? Exploring Unknown Knowns

tri-camp-mallorcaI’m on a triathlon training camp with a group of people I mostly don’t know, and we’ve got to the stage of the week where people are starting to ask each other what they do for a living. So, how to explain what I do? And more importantly, to explain: why is Clean Language useful?

My current best opening lineĀ results from a conversation with Olaf Lewitz.

“I help people to discover stuff they don’t know that they know. The stuff that’s just under the surface, just outside their awareness. The unknown knowns…”

That seems to catch people’s interest – well, a whole lot better than, “I’m a freelance coach, trainer and consultant,” or even, “I help scattered teams to work better together.”

But once they’re thinking about this idea of exploring the stuff people don’t know that they know, you can see the question in their eyes, even when they don’t ask it aloud. “How is that useful?”

Often, of course, my answer will vary dependingĀ on what I know about them. But if they’re first in with that “What do you do?” question, I might say, “Lots of places. Anywhere you don’t want the obvious, ordinary answer:

  • all kinds of research
  • anywhere where people want to collaborate and find out what’s actually important to the other people
  • in healthcare where you want people to say more than one line about what’s wrong
  • where you’ve got people working together across disciplines or across hierarchies or in different locations, and need to understand each other more fully…”

And, in terms of conversation, we’re then off to the races. That’s usually enough to prompt someone to come up with an example of how what I’ve described might be relevant to them.

Only later in the conversation do I introduce the fact that Clean Language is an inquiry modality, or start talking about the role of metaphor in thought.

  • What’s your answer to, “Why is Clean Language useful?” Please comment below.

3 thoughts on “Why Is Clean Language Useful? Exploring Unknown Knowns”

  1. Lesley Rickard

    Clean Language is useful to me because it helps me to listen better than I would if i were adding my ideas into the conversation. Using ‘and that’s like what . . ?’or ‘tell me more . . ‘ allows the other person’s input to be so much more ‘blue sky’ than if I had said something like ‘tell me about your day’ or ‘what does it feel like to be ….’.

    I am so happy to have learnt of Clean Language and use it whenever I can to support my staff (and myself) to learn more about themselves than they ever thought was there to learn.

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