Simple But Not Easy: Mastering Clean Language

If you've been following this blog for a while, you've probably had a go at using the Clean Language questions to help someone to change. After all, the questions are simple. How complicated can it be to apply them, particularly if you're an experienced hypnotist of other change worker? And you may well have been left wondering why you bothered. The attempt might have ended in your client's tears - or just fizzled out. Because of course there's more to using this powerful change methodology than just asking the simple questions at random to ask about people's self-generated metaphors. What Clean Language question should you ask, about what, and when? And what should you do with the response? Over the weekend, I was teaching two close friends the heuristics I use to choose my questions, based on Penny Tompkins and James Lawley's Framework for Change. Both of my students are very bright and both have been exposed to my work for years. "They'll soon pick it up," I told myself. And of course, it was much more complicated than that. As soon as they began to practice with "real" content, they began to struggle. They were overwhelmed with the sheer volume of stuff that their clients said, drowning in the detail. But wait! Here's an important thing to notice. Even though, as facilitators, they felt overwhelmed, their Clean Language questions helped their clients achieve new insights. But they didn't know that until I insisted they check in with the client before starting to beat themselves up. How might that be relevant to your practice, I wonder? Feel free to comment below.  

2 thoughts on “Simple But Not Easy: Mastering Clean Language”

  1. alistair donnell

    I was teaching parrot phrasing to my students today. While he was talking I chose the ones I leaned on (from his auditorial leanings) myself then fedback parrot fashion. Then, when he continued talking after that I completely reversed what he had said to give him the experience of what it is like when someone feeds back something that wasn’t said. It threw him completely. From what I have learned so far where people place there attention in space and how they feed the information auditorially seems a good guider for me as an enthusiastic amateur. Thanks Judy

  2. Often the person is overwhelmed by the detail, it is the clean langauage etc which changes their perception of their map of the world.
    The person is caught up in the detail, they are trapping themselves in the detail, once guided, through the use of clean language to another path, they will fill in the similar depth of detail in a new direction.
    For example a lovely lady raised her concerns of being over analytical, are we all not at times?
    some of our group went to deep into the matter , down the rabbit hole.
    I don’t know how this ties into clean language but the concept is to just guide the person , let them find their own way.
    in this case we were studying reframing, which clean language seems to be extremely usefull.
    I asked her when you eat a bowl of rice , do you eat it one grain at a time?
    Her response absolutely floored me. She just paused , thought about and drew her own meaning from it , drew her own understanding and it all came gushing out , she told me things I had never even thought of, she was guiding me , teaching me, all I did was provide a push in another direction.
    This lovely lady drew and formed her own metaphors from this.
    Perhaps I am wrong but the power of clean language is in its vagueness, the art of selecting the detail causing the blocking and through language allow it to fade away and vanish into a new understanding.
    this is the clients understanding, which , if we are privelaged enough to be trusted by them and made a part of then, we become the students.
    Clean language is the tool to do this.
    Any thoughts anyone?

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