It happens every time. The same mistake. Every time.
And, it’s starting to dawn on me that there’s actually something interesting going on when it happens.
Here’s the scenario. I take a group through their first experience of asking, and being asked, the Clean Language questions.
I start the debrief, “What happened when you were asked the Clean Language questions?”
The answer comes quickly, “It felt awkward to ask them.”
I try again. “What happened when you were asked the Clean Language questions? Sometimes I’ll add, “We’ll come to how it felt to ask the questions later.”
It never makes any difference.
Everyone wants to talk about how it felt to ask them. It takes a serious effort to shift the group’s focus to being asked.
This “mistake” is quite a big deal. I want the group to talk about, and to notice, what happened when they were asked the questions. How their attention went inside themselves, to find answers they didn’t know they had. How they made new connections between ideas. How the process felt respectful, even to the naturally shy.
But instead, attention automatically flows to the experience of asking the questions. Every time.
So, what’s happening?
One thing I notice is that this is an instance of people’s natural tendency to dedicate more attention to experiences they don’t want to have, than to those they enjoy and would want more of.
In this case, what they don’t want is the discomfort of breaching social norms by asking personal questions of strangers; of being forced to listen more intently to the answers than usual; of following a procedure where there’s a good chance of “doing it wrong”.
They enjoy, and want more of, the experience of being asked the questions. But that means they barely notice it, and so don’t want to attend to it in the debrief.
This natural tendency is something I’ve written about before, here for example. In Clean Language, we even have a special question to address it – the Power Switch.
And I wonder if there’s another element.
The group’s attention tends to go to the experience of asking the questions, not to the experience of listening, even though the activity required them to do both. I wonder if that’s because listening tends to be seen as passive, while asking questions is active? Again, that’s a topic I’ve explored before, here.
More research needed, I think.
What do you reckon? Please comment below.