Being skilled with Clean Language gives you tremendous power to influence. In my blog earlier this week I spelled out how, by seeking not to influence with tricksy language patterns, skilled Clean Language facilitators actually make themselves more influential, cutting through potential resistance like a knife through butter. These facilitators also use the "3 Dimensions of Conversational Control" - self control, context control and attention control - with awareness, to direct their "Clean" conversations. It's elegant, and very effective. And they understand "Fourth Dimension" - the role of metaphor in conscious and subconscious thought. (There's more on all this in my new e-book, The Persuasion Paradox.) I count many of these skilled Clean facilitators as my friends, and I know that most of them promote Clean Language with a message along the lines of “The whole point of Clean Language is to honour the other person’s model of the world and NOT influence.” That kind of marketing message attracts some lovely, well-intentioned and highly ethical people to the field. It's a message I used myself for about three years. So how come I now link words like "influence", "persuasion" and "manipulation" with "Clean Language"? Essentially, I think Clean Language has tremendous potential to change the world for the better, and I want to get it into the hands of as many people as possible. Therefore, I think it needs to be marketed in such a way that people know that it will meet a need or desire which they know they have. Few people want to spend money to learn how to "not influence"! Lots want to become more effective - more influential - in terms of their impact on the world. Secondarily, I don't think it's true that the whole point of Clean Language is to "not influence". I think developing these skills makes you potentially very influential. And I think that "ground truth" is the most effective place from which to start a marketing conversation. Thirdly, the word "manipulation" provides a fabulous example of Humpty Dumpty language. I'm not massively invested in it, I may drop it. But it does provide an elegant means of getting people to understand that not everyone means the same thing by the same word - a central principle of Clean Language!
  • What do you think? Should stop using the word "manipulation"? Please comment below.

    4 replies to "Manipulation and Clean Language"

    • Nancy

      Hi Judy I can see your dilemma. However, I think that just because people know they want to influence doesn’t mean they should! Lots of people influence the world in very negative ways. Clean Language enables us to chose very carefully where we put our and our client/coachee/team’s attention and we can subtly move people towards outcome thinking, but what if we’re morally opposed to their outcomes? I still think that peace and collaboration come from avoiding trying to influence other peoples’ thinking.

      Just look at the religious right in the US. They are all over influencing other peoples’ thinking, and are forcing citizens to live under a fundamentalist christian propaganda, exactly the thing they are frightened of with muslim sharia law! They’re so busy worrying about what others should do they’ve stopped questioning at themselves.

      Influencing through Clean, in systemic groups, comes from each person appreciating the inherent wisdom in each other’s thinking and seeking not to change it, but to find a mutually beneficial way for it to thrive. That means that the beholder does the adjusting, not the subject, or that it is carefully negotiated with willing participants.

      I think the underlying theme that I am trying to get to is that Clean Language is about power dynamics. Using Clean means that therapist and client, coach and coachee, facilitator and group are on an equal playing field. No one is trying to be better than the other one. All information is useful and no one is trying to do something to someone else because they ‘know better’. And that seems an odd place to begin considering ‘manipulation’.

      However, if there is a genuine market for manipulation, who are we to suggest they are wrong for wanting it?

    • Terry

      Every communication must evoke response and is therefore, a manipulation.
      Dr Milton Erickson

    • owen

      Manipulation is just a word.

      I do tend to think that it has a negative aspect to it – i.e. attempting to take advantage of others for personal gain, which leads me to think that you may attract attention from people with untoward intentions. However, I don´t think that clean language will help them fulfil these untoward intentions!
      So, I´d say I don´t think it will have a negative impact 🙂

    • Joan Havemann

      As you say, Judy, ‘manipulation’ provides a great example of Humpty Dumpty language. It can refer to the work of chiropractors, physiotherapists and others doing bodywork to help someone get better. We also all learn to manipulate tools, as in eating with cutlery. There’s no negative connotation there. On the other hand, ‘manipulation’ does also conjure up snake-oil salesmen, false promises, the creation of false desires and so on.

      I don’t think I’m at all unusual in wanting to be a positive influence in the world (or as street hypnotists say, ‘a force for good’) and it’s fine with me if you market Clean by being upfront about its potential to influence. Talk of ‘manipulation’ though does perhaps conjure ‘the dark side’! As I understand it, using Clean, you influence/ persuade/ encourage/ facilitate people to ‘go inside’ or ‘dig deep’ to find their own answers rather than try to impose your own.

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