I’ve been intensely focussed on Clean Language during 2014 and well into this year as well. I’ve reflected on where I’ve been and what I want to do next below. It’s a sort of open mini self-retrospective…first I’ll recap what Clean Language is, for those who don’t know.
Clean Language is a mode of inquiry and a way of coaching – from the realm of psychotherapy. Using Clean Language type of inquiry is about fostering/encouraging the ‘conditions’ for change when a client has a goal, an aspiration, or alternatively when they don’t know what they want, they may start with what they don’t want. When I started looking into it, I was struck with its simplicity and its power, and thought about the many ways it supports other models I have been studying. I was also struck by its power as a mental model, even if it is never overtly used. In fact, there are folks teaching this to very young children with tremendously powerful outcomes.
Clean language is a question only based system, where the questions focus attention on the words and phrases and patterns of symbols (words/thoughts/constructs) used by the client/customer/interlocutor. In it is ‘clean’ in that it removes injections of one’s own reactions, assumptions, and suggestions and keeps the focus on the person who is doing the thinking. I can think of countless business conversations in which one person is cut short, when in response another person interrupts with their own thinking (sometimes also masquerading as a challenging question). For this reason, clean has affected 100% how I experience conversations and dialogues.
Clean Language also draws on the power of metaphor – intuitive, subconscious knowledge. In business settings where it is used, it may not go so deep as in therapy, but the metaphors can bridge gaps in understanding in an incredibly dense, efficient way. In addition, clean questions/clean coaching can help reveal intentions, assumptions, desired outcomes, resources and so forth. It can be a powerful addition to any process, especially when taught to groups who then used among themselves. This has been demonstrated by Caitlin Walker’s adaptation of Clean Language – called Systemic Modeling.
Here are the 5 things I’ve done to engage myself in the process of learning more about Clean Language:
1.) In the hopes I might find some interested people in the software and facilitation fields, I spent a lot of time presenting at numerous workshop during the past year including Agile2014, AgileDC, the Mid-Atlantic Facilitators Network, IIBA-DC, and the Coaching Special Interest Group of the Chesapeake Bay Organizational Development Network. I found quite a few people who found it fascinating and got some really interesting feedback each time.
2.) During the past year I worked with a Clean Language professional Sharon Small, owner of the Clean Language Institute, to produce a book compilation of interviews of people who use Clean Language professionally in some fashion. That was tremendously illuminating because we found deliberate usage in a variety of quite disparate fields, and we have not uncovered them all. So a goal we have will be to increase the number of interviewees in the book in the coming years. The book is called ‘Who is Using Clean, Anyway?‘
3.) I’ve enjoyed participating in monthly Skype calls of enthusiasts from around the world in the IT/Clean Language space – where we collaboratively share our knowledge, learnings, successes, and questions.
4.) There are numerous Youtube postings, and several Facebook groups that also have kept me actively learning in the Clean Language space.
5.) I recently finished reading all the major books on Clean Language that I felt were important for a serious practitioner. Many of these books and resources are listed right here on my blog.
Now, in the present , I am trying to imagine answers to some of these questions:
- What would I like to have happen next?
- How does Clean Language really affect how I listen to conversations, interact with people, understand them?
- Do others notice?
- Do I remember what I was like before I knew about Clean?
- How does it (and Caitlin Walker’s Systemic Modeling) bear resemblance to other means of inquiry and rich, dense information exchange between people, such as The Core Protocols of Michele and Jim McCarthy?
- How will I apply what I have learned more systematically down the road in work settings?
- What inhibits me from trying?
- Do I want to delve deeper in practice, or step back for a while?
- Do I want to stop delivering workshops?
- Do I want more formal in person training in Systemic Modeling? or Symbolic Modeling?
- If I get more training, what happens next?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a much older wish coming true this year: I am going to go to Jerry Weinberg’s Problem Solving Leadership retreat in June. I’ve wanted to do that for some time. And Jerry’s work has been heavily influenced by Virginia Satir, who was a key influence in the development of NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming – from which Clean Language emerged. So I’ll be experiencing a week’s worth of immersion on a ‘cousin’ branch of Satir’s influence… and I’ve been told by many that PSL offers a lifetime’s worth of learning. I hope so.
My future learning about Clean Language is in my hands, yet to be sculpted, revealed. I’ve imagined a few possibilities.
- I may revive the notion of hosting a Clean Language practice group, but I’ll need to find a place to host it where folks might be willing to come.
- I definitely will try to connect with Caitlin for Systemic Modeling training in the coming year or two.
- I will hold open the possibility of hosting Clean Language explorations on-line, if there is interest.
- And, what might help a whole lot will be to attend a Personal Journey Retreat given by James Lawley, Penny Tomkins – who will be offering that in the US – West Coast – in January 2016.
Penny and James wrote the seminal book on Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling, It is called Metaphors in Mind – Transformation through Symbolic Modelling. They codified the way that David Grove used Clean Language in therapy by observing him in his therapy sessions, as David Grove didn’t want to stop his work to write!
James and Penny also maintain the most exhaustive on-line resource involving Clean Language. It is like a museum gallery – which you can see here. And, for those not in psychotherapy, there is still much to be gained here – articles about Clean Language used in research, business coaching, and facilitation and so forth. It will be a museum visit – and if you start reading there, after a time, you’ll ask yourself – ‘What? Is it really time to close already, where did all the time go?!’ I have much left to explore here as well.
That’s it for Past, Present, Future – at least for today. Oh – and if YOU are interested in connecting with me to practice or learn more, please do. You can find me on twitter at @andreachiou or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org