Words To Listen Out For

In his book Trust Me, I’m The Patient, Philip Harland has an interesting list of words to listen out for when facilitating somebody using Clean Language questions.

Philip’s work, and the frame for his book, is psychotherapy – and while that’s where Clean Language originally comes from, that’s definitely not my world.

But most of his list is probably just as relevant to people using Clean in coaching, including business coaching, in work with groups and even in interviewing.

When people first learn about Clean Language, they usually listen out for metaphors, and start to ask about them.

Then, someone (maybe me) mentions the emotional impact of questions, and they might start to ask about outcomes and outcome metaphors.

Gradually, they discover that Clean Language questions can be used about almost anything. As long as the questioner’s tone is non-judgmental and curious the client’s inner world, there’s pretty much no such thing as a “wrong question”

But asking about the items on Philip’s list takes things to a whole new level.

Here it is – those words to listen out for are:

  • Words that “pop out of nowhere”
  • Words with ambiguity or multiple meaning
  • Unusual or obscure words or constructions
  • Non-sequiturs
  • Puns and wordplay
  • Repeated words
  • “Knowing”words
  • Indicators of limitation, neglect, or unresolved need
  • “Shoulds”

I think it could be argued that the last two items are specifically “therapeutic” in their focus. But I’ve tried the others in all kinds of contexts – and the results usually surprise both the client and me. Why not give them a go? Please comment with your results below.

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