I first came to the world of Coaching via NLP. During my early training courses, I kept hearing the phrase “Keep it Clean!” and back at home and doing some more internet learning, I discovered the book “Clean Language: Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds “, by Judy Rees and Wendy Sullivan.
What I particularly loved about Clean Language is that I could practise on myself. If I’d had a lousy day, I could ask myself “What kind of lousy was that lousy day?” “And is there anything else about lousy?” and without adding extra (unhelpful) judgements, I could unpick exactly what it was that had made that day be lousy.
Then I could ask the essential question “And when it’s like that, what would I like to have happen?”. Straight away, I could see that I was an actor of my own destiny, not obliged to put up with situations. That I had a role to play. A choice in how I would like things to turn out. And I loved the ‘playfulness’ of the method.
By using metaphor, I could visualise scenarios and get creative, imagining how I’d like things to be, and coming up with images, mantras, and feelings I could really anchor.
I copied out the Clean Language questions (CLQ) on to some small bits of paper and carried them about in my bag, ready to put them to use. I discovered that you really can use them in ‘everyday life’.
When my 17-yr. old daughter asks if she can go to a party, I can ask “What kind of party” and get more information about the party without the usual mother-daughter conflict.
If a student says they are feeling nervous, I ask “What kind of nervous?” and maybe ask “when you’re feeling nervous, what would you like to have happen?”
For who am I to impose my version of nervous on them? I know how I am when I’m feeling nervous, but I don’t know what it’s like for them. Nor do I know what that nervousness is doing for them. Do they want to keep on feeling nervous and therefore motivated to work hard? Or is that nervousness stopping them from continuing?
With CLQ, I can ask non -judgemental questions to find out more and let them decide what they want to do next. CLQ also help in working out a sequence or pattern: “
And what happens just before (or just after) nervous?” And they can help work out relationships between things “And is there a relationship between nervous and motivation?”
In my experience, telling people what to do, advising people doesn’t work. We’re all unique. We’ve had different upbringings; we have different family set-ups, beliefs and values. We have different professional commitments and expectations. A change has to come from within to make it stick. So using CLQ to explore a client’s problem, and using their creativity to find solutions which work for them, is the best way to work for me. CLQ help me to leave my prejudices and suppositions behind and be present and available for the client.
Working with metaphor also enables quite tricky situations or experiences to be explored without revisiting the original trauma and without submerging the client in unhelpful emotions and drama. It’s efficient and gentle at the same time.
Systemic Modelling is a way of using Clean in groups. Whether it be a team at work, a class at school, a family or a group of Directors, the Systemic Modelling ‘format’ creates a safe space for a group to explore what’s working, what’s not working. To take responsibility for their reactions and support each other in discovering their patterns of behaviour and to come up with their own objectives.
A Facilitator in Systemic Modelling has a high level of skill in managing their own state, in giving good quality feedback, remaining curious, and trusting that the group has enough wisdom to find their own solutions. It’s even better when there are two Facilitators who can support each other and keep any emerging egos in check. It is hard sometimes not to become the Expert …
In this day and age when we’re all bombarded with so much information, it’s easy to slip into the trap of thinking we know everything. Clean Language keeps me humble and curious. It reminds me that at the end of the day, we’re all just human beings with all our ‘curves and edges’, our childhood baggage and adolescent hang-ups, some of us bumbling through life, others charging ahead and we’re all trying our best to live our best lives… however that may be. And if I can help bring clarity to some of that muddle, then it can only be a good thing!
You can find out more about Sarah Scarratt on her Unlimited Potential profile.